The Beamer package is a LaTeX class for creating presentations that are held using a projector, but it can also be used to create transparency slides. The Beamer is perfect for creating a presentation with many mathematical formulas. A variety of themes and styles is available to customize the presentation. Beamer is freely available for download.
Type of Material:
Creating a power-point-like presentation that contains mathematical formulas.
Computer with LaTeX software installed. Because LaTeX classes are platform independent, this should work under WINDOWS, Linux, Unix as well as the Mac OS.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
Creating mathematical presentations and slideshows that are held using a multi-media projector.
Target Student Population:
Anyone using LaTeX who wants to create a presentation.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Beamer allows you to create slide shows featuring overlays, animation, and so on in LaTeX. For LaTeX users, Beamer has a number of advantages over PowerPoint or OpenOffice: If you are creating slides from a larger document, you can simply re-use your LaTeX source material from that document. If you need mathematical content in your slides, you have the wealth of mathematical constructs in LaTeX to draw upon. The slides you create are platform-independent pdfs. Beamer has more functionality than the other available packages. For example, it is possible to display a table of contents in the margin of every single slide with a locator indicating the present position.
A user is limited to several predefined templates; as a result most of the Beamer-created presentations look alike. This need not be a weakness, because the available templates are well structured and useful for mathematical presentations. For fine tuning, it would be nice if one could click on an object and edit the actual source code line. This however, is a concern with pdfLateX, not Beamer in particular.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
In order to create a Beamer-based presentation one simply inserts some calls to Beamer macros into a LaTeX source file, then runs pdflatex, which is a part of any standard TeX bundle. Acrobat Reader is used to present slides. This makes a slideshow totally platform independent. When bringing a presentation to a conference on a memory stick, the presenter does not have to worry about which version of the presentation program might be installed there. Also, the presentation is going to look exactly the way it looked when it was created. Typical pitfalls such as special fonts that are only installed on the presenters machine do not exist for Beamer-created presentations.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The latest LaTeX bundles (such as MikTeX) install the Beamer automatically using the package install-on-demand feature. All that is required is to compile an existing presentation file. For older versions of TeX the detailed instructions are provided.
A thorough 200-page manual is included with installation.
It takes time to learn some advanced features of the package. Also, it takes a lot longer to compile a Beamer LaTeX file compared to a standard LaTeX document. Because of the need to learn further commands, Beamer seems to only be truly effective for presentations that are heavy on mathematical symbols.
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