Awkward Sequence Problems

(A new question of the week) Having just discussed some pattern or sequence problems that were poorly posed, let’s look at some recent questions about sequences, some of which are quite complicated, and others seem to be just wrong. Two extreme patterns Here is the initial question from Zehra: Please make me understand how I …

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Uncertain Sequences

We’ve often pointed out that pattern or sequence problems, when nothing is given but a list of numbers, are not really math, in the sense that there is no one correct answer. They are psychology questions: What would a math teacher think is an interesting sequence to ask about? Mathematically, any number could come next, …

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Building Patterns and Sequences

In the past (last May and November), we discussed ways to find patterns or sequences in numbers, sometimes leading to a formula. This included an example where the sequence turned out not to be just a provided list of numbers, but a process that generated the numbers. I want to focus on that type of …

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L’Hôpital’s Rule: What and Why

The next few posts will look at a powerful technique for finding limits in calculus, called L’Hôpital’s Rule. Here, we’ll introduce what it is, and why it works. In the next post we’ll examine some harder cases. Indeterminate forms The method we will be discussing is used to find limits that have an indeterminate form. …

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Patterns of Logical Argument

We’ve looked at various aspects of turning English sentences into logical statements, and modifying them by negation, converse, and so on. Let’s finish by looking at some questions about standard rules of inference, such as Modus Ponens and the Law of Syllogism. Four ways to argue We can start with a question about the basics, …

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Complicating the Converse

(An archive question of the week) Usually when we discuss converses (and inverses and contrapositives) we use clear, idealized examples. But statements in real life — even in real math — are not quite so straightforward. The difficulty is not merely in the language, but in the complexity of our statements. A question in the …

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Negating Logic Statements: How to Say “Not”

Last time, I started a series exploring aspects of the translation of English statements to or from formal logical terms and symbols, which will lead to discussions of converse and contrapositive, and eventually of logical arguments. We’ve looked at how to translate concepts of “or” (disjunction) and “if” (conditional); but our goals will also require …

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