# Month: May 2019

## False Proofs: Are All Numbers Equal?

One of the ways to show the need for careful proof, which I discussed last time, is the existence of apparent proofs of false “facts”. These are also useful for training us to think carefully. In this and the next couple posts, I will look at a few categories of false proofs, focusing on what …

## Why Do We Need Proofs?

One aspect of mathematics that students often struggle with, particularly in geometry (which traditionally has been where proof is introduced), is writing proofs. Why do we need to learn about proofs? Why are proofs needed in the first place? Here are a few answers we’ve given to these questions. Why does math need proofs? First, …

## 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, …

## 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 …

## More on Gender Probability: Twins

(An archive question of the week) Recently we looked at the question of how likely a two-child family with a boy is to have another boy (or, to the contrary, to also have a girl). Searching for those questions turned up another one of interest involving the gender of a pair of siblings: How do …

## 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 …

## Percent Change: Markup and Margin

We have looked at how to calculate, apply, and undo a percent increase or decrease. Here we will look at some special terms used in business for percent increases, which have been a source of many questions over the years. Finding the markup or margin Markup and margin refer to the profit (difference between cost …

## Percent Change: Working Backward

Having discussed how to calculate the percent change between two numbers, and how to apply such a change to one number to get a new number, we need to look at what may be one of the most common types of questions we get: reversing a percent change (increase or decrease) to find the original …

## Percent Change: Finding and Applying It

A question we got in March asked about working with percent increases. As I replied to this rather common topic, referring to an archived answer, I was reminded that this would is a very common type of question, and would be a good topic to cover in the blog. So that will be the topic …