Large collections containing millions of math formulas are available online. Retrieving math expressions from these collections is challenging. Users can use formula, formula+text, or math questions to express their math information needs. The structural complexity of formulas requires specialized processing. Despite the existence of math search systems and online community question-answering websites for math, little is known about mathematical information needs. This research first explores the characteristics of math searches using a general search engine. The findings show how math searches are different from general searches. Then, test collections for math-aware search are introduced. The ARQMath test collections have two main tasks: 1) finding answers for math questions and 2) contextual formula search. In each test collection (ARQMath-1 to -3) the same collection is used, Math Stack Exchange posts from 2010 to 2018, introducing different topics for each task. Compared to the previous test collections, ARQMath has a much larger number of diverse topics, and improved evaluation protocol. Another key role of this research is to leverage text and math information for improved math information retrieval. Three formula search models that only use the formula, with no context are introduced. The first model is an n-gram embedding model using both symbol layout tree and operator tree representations. The second model uses tree-edit distance to re-rank the results from the first model. Finally, a learning-to-rank model that leverages full-tree, sub-tree, and vector similarity scores is introduced. To use context, Math Abstract Meaning Representation (MathAMR) is introduced, which generalizes AMR trees to include math formula operations and arguments. This MathAMR is then used for contextualized formula search using a fine-tuned Sentence-BERT model. The experiments show tree-edit distance ranking achieves the current state-of-the-art results on contextual formula search task, and the MathAMR model can be beneficial for re-ranking. This research also addresses the answer retrieval task, introducing a two-step retrieval model in which similar questions are first found and then answers previously given to those similar questions are ranked. The proposed model, fine-tunes two Sentence-BERT models, one for finding similar questions and another one for ranking the answers. For Sentence-BERT model, raw text as well as MathAMR are used.

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Computing and Information Sciences (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Computer Science (GCCIS)


Richard Zanibbi

Advisor/Committee Member

Douglas W. Oard

Advisor/Committee Member

Cecilia Alm


RIT – Main Campus