Working with MathML


MathML is an XML-based markup language for representing mathematics. It was developed by the W3C to provide an effective way to display math in web pages and facilitate the transfer and reuse of mathematical content between applications. The great advantage is that it can encode information about both the meaning and appearance of mathematical notation. This makes it an ideal data format for storing and exchanging mathematical information. For example, a MathML equation can be copied out of a web page and directly pasted into an application like the Wolfram Language for evaluation.

As a common and widely accepted standard for representing mathematics, MathML provides the foundation for many interesting and useful applications. For example, you can use MathML to create dynamic mathematical websites featuring interactive equations, set up a database of technical documents whose contents can be easily searched, indexed, and archived, or develop speech synthesis software for audio rendering of mathematics.

MathML has grown rapidly in popularity since it was first released in 1998, gaining broad support in both industry and academia. It is currently possible to view MathML equations in the leading web browsers, either directly or using freely available plugins. As more tools for authoring, viewing, and processing MathML become available, its importance is only expected to grow.

Wolfram Research was a key participant in the development of MathML and is committed to supporting this important web technology. The Wolfram Language includes full support for MathML 2.0. You can import MathML equations into a Wolfram Language notebook and evaluate them, or export equations from a notebook as MathML and paste them into an HTML document. There are also several kernel commands for converting between MathML and the boxes and expressions used by the Wolfram Language to represent mathematics.

Syntax of MathML


Since it is an XML application, the syntax rules of MathML are defined by the XML specification. Each MathML expression consists of a series of elements, written in the angle bracket syntax similar to HTML. Each element can take several attributes. The allowed elements and attributes are determined by the MathML DTD.

All MathML elements fall into one of three categories: interface elements, presentation elements, and content elements.

Interface elements, such as the top-level math element, determine how a MathML expression is embedded in other XML documents.

Presentation elements encode information about the visual two-dimensional structure of a mathematical expression. For example, the mrow, mfrac, msqrt, and msub elements represent a row, a fraction, a square root, and a subscripted expression, respectively.

Content elements encode information about the logical meaning of a mathematical expression. For example, plus and sin represent addition and the trigonometric sine function, and apply represents the operation of applying a function.

A given equation can be represented in several different ways in MathML:

Presentation MathML

Presentation MathML consists of about 30 elements and 50 attributes, which encode the visual two-dimensional structure of a mathematical expression. For example, the Wolfram Language typeset expression would have the following MathML representation.

The entire expression is enclosed in a math element. This must be the root element for every instance of MathML markup. The other presentation elements are:

<mfrac> numerator denominator </mfrac>

<msup> base superscript </msup>

The mrow element is used to enclose other elements that appear in a horizontal row. For example, the typeset expression would have the following MathML representation.

Here, the limits of the integral are shown using the presentation element msubsup, which takes three arguments, with the following syntax.

<msubsup> base subscript superscript </msubsup>

Another notable feature is that the symbols representing the integral sign, the exponential, and the differential d are represented using the character entities &int;, &exp;, and &dd;. These are among approximately 2,000 special symbols defined by the MathML DTD. These can be included in a document using a named entity reference or a character entity reference, which uses the Unicode character code.

The mstyle element is used for applying styles to an equation. Any attributes specified in an mstyle element are inherited by all its child elements. You can use this element to specify properties like the font size and color for an equation. Note the use of the entity &InvisibleTimes; to denote multiplication.

The examples are intended only to illustrate how presentation markup works through a sampling of some of its elements. To see a complete listing of all the presentation elements and attributes, see the MathML specification at

Content MathML

Content MathML consists of about 140 elements and 12 attributes, which encode the logical meaning of a mathematical expression. The content elements ci and cn are used to represent identifiers and numbers, respectively. They are analogous to the mi and mn elements in presentation markup. For example, the typeset expression would have the following content MathML representation.

The apply element is used to apply operators or functions to expressions. The first argument of the apply element is usually an empty element indicating an operator or function. The remaining arguments represent one or more expressions to which the first argument is applied. In this example, the first argument of the apply function is the empty element plus, which denotes addition.

The type attribute of cn describes the type of number encoded. It can take values real, integer, rational, complex-polar, complex-cartesian, and constant. The empty element sep is used to separate different parts of a number such as the numerator and denominator of a fraction or the real and imaginary parts of a complex number. For example:

The majority of content elements are empty elements representing specific operators or functions. The various elements are organized into groups named after the specific elementary subfields of mathematics.

Importing MathML

There are two ways to import MathML equations into the Wolfram Language:

MathML Import Options

The standard Import options can be used for greater control over the export process. The syntax for specifying a conversion option is as follows.


Generating MathML

The Wolfram Language includes several functions for generating MathML from the boxes and expressions used internally by the Wolfram Language to represent equations. You can enter an equation in a notebook using palettes, menus, or keyboard shortcuts and then convert it into MathML using one of these conversion functions. All the MathML conversion functions are located in the XML`MathML` context.

Use ExportString to generate MathML from a box structure. By default, this generates presentation markup only.
Use ExportString to convert a typeset equation into MathML. By default, this generates presentation MathML.
"Content"->True will generate presentation and content MathML enclosed in a semantics element.

The annotation-xml element is used to provide additional information of the type specified by its encoding attribute. Here, the encoding attribute has the value "MathML-Content" indicating that the annotation-xml element contains content MathML.

Use "Presentation" and "Content" to generate either presentation MathML or content MathML only. Set "Annotations"->{} to suppress the header information.

ExportString evaluates its first argument before converting it to MathML. An expression that can be simplified on evaluation may give unexpected results.

Generate the presentation markup for the following definite integral.
Since the integral evaluates to 1, this command generates the MathML representation of 1 instead of the integral.
To get the MathML representation of the integral, force the integral to remain unevaluated by wrapping the Unevaluated function around it.

Setting Options

Export and ExportString accept the options "Annotations", "Presentation", "Content", and "NamespacePrefixes".

Using these options, you can control various features of the generated MathML, such as including an XML or DTD declaration, generating presentation markup, content markup, or both, and using an explicit namespace declaration and prefix.

You can specify the options explicitly each time you evaluate one of the MathML functions. Or use the SetOptions command to change the default values of the options for a particular function. The option values you set are then used for all subsequent evaluations of that function.

Exporting MathML


Use the Wolfram Language's sophisticated typesetting capabilities to create properly formatted equations and then convert them into MathML for display on the web. There are several ways to export mathematical expressions from a Wolfram Language notebook as MathML.

MathML Export Options

The standard options of the Export or ExportString functions can be used for greater control over the export process. The syntax for specifying a conversion option is:



Options can also be specified directly in any function that produces MathML as output:


When exporting as MathML, you can use any of the Export options available for exporting general XML documents.


This option controls which annotations are added to the output MathML. The value is a list whose elements can be "DocumentHeader", "XMLDeclaration", or "DOCTYPEDeclaration". The order of the elements in the list is not relevant.


When "XMLDeclaration" is one of the annotations, an XML declaration, <?xml version="1.0"?>, is included in the header.


When "DOCTYPEDeclaration" is one of the annotations, an XML document type declaration of the form <!DOCTYPE > appears in the header. This statement specifies the DTD for the XML application in which the output is written.


"Annotations"->{"DocumentHeader", "XMLDeclaration", "DOCTYPEDeclaration"} automatically adds a header containing an XML declaration and a document type declaration for the MathML DTD to the output.

When "Annotations" does not contain "DocumentHeader", then the output MathML has no header. This is true even if "Annotations" contains other elements such as "XMLDeclaration" or "DOCTYPEDeclaration".

"Presentation" and "Content"

These options control which type of MathML markup is generated. The default settings are "Presentation"->True and "Content"->False.

Export presentation MathML only.
Export content MathML only.


This option determines whether an extra annotation should be added when exporting a formula containing constructs specific to the Wolfram Language that do not have a clear counterpart in MathML.

"IncludeMarkupAnnotations"TrueWolfram Languagespecific information is included in a separate annotation element (default)
Falsean extra annotation element is not added

Values for "IncludeMarkupAnnotations".

With "IncludeMarkupAnnotations"->True, the Wolfram Language annotation is enclosed in a semantics element. This allows lossless import back into the Wolfram Language.

The Wolfram Language special character does not have a corresponding character in Unicode. (Unicode's right arrow character looks the same but does not have the same code point.) When exporting , an extra annotation is added to the markup.
With "IncludeMarkupAnnotations"->False, no extra annotation is included.


This option lets you add attributes to the root element of a MathML expression. The option has the syntax "MathAttributes"->{attribute1->value1,attribute2->value2,}.

Export a MathML expression and specify that it should be displayed in inline form.
Export a MathML expression in display form.


This option controls whether plane 1 Unicode characters should be replaced with similar plane 0 characters. This is useful because currently most browsers cannot properly display plane 1 characters.

"UseUnicodePlane1Characters"Truespecial characters belonging to plane 1 of Unicode are exported without being replaced (default)
Falsespecial characters belonging to plane 1 of Unicode are replaced by plane 0 characters with an attached mathvariant attribute

Values for "UseUnicodePlane1Characters".

With "UseUnicodePlane1Characters" set to True, special plane 1 Unicode characters (e.g. Gothic, scripted, and double-struck characters) are written out with their plane 1 numeric character codes.
With "UseUnicodePlane1Characters" set to False, any special plane 1 Unicode character is replaced by a corresponding plane 0 character with a suitable value of the mathvariant attribute specified.

Symbols for MathML Elements

Since certain content elements in MathML do not have a direct analog in the Wolfram Language, a few symbols are specially defined in the XML`MathML` context.

Symbols with the MathML markup they are meant to represent.
Examples that use these symbols. These all have a traditional typeset form.