More on Uncountable Irrationals

(An archive question of the week) While I was researching for the post on uncountable sets, I ran across a discussion that didn’t quite fit, but raises interesting questions about how countable and uncountable sets can fit together. How can the rational numbers be countable, but the irrational numbers, which are closely intertwined with them, …

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Minimizing a Function of Two Variables: Multiple Methods

(A new question of the week) A recent question from a student working beyond what he has learned led to an interesting discussion of alternative methods for solving a minimization problem, both with and without calculus. The problem The question came from Kurisada a couple months ago: f(x, y) = x2 – 4xy + 5y2 – 4y …

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More Than 100 Percent?

One of the questions we looked at in our recent survey of percent change problems involved percentages over 100%, which often confuse students. How can anything be more than 100%? Let’s look at a couple questions about that issue. No such thing? Take this question from 1999: More Than 100 Percent Please help to settle …

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Frequently Questioned Answers: Uncountable Infinities

We could continue forever discussing questions whose answers are frequently questioned; but let’s finish by looking at infinity itself. The concept is impossible to fully grasp, because we are finite, and all of our experience is finite. Mathematicians have worked out ways to deal with infinity, though, and the results are often counter-intuitive. That means …

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