Month: October 2019

Choosing the Most Appropriate Unit

We’ve been looking at measuring and drawing devices (compass, ruler, protractor); let’s move on to units of measurement. A fairly common question for students learning about measurement is, “What is the most appropriate unit for measuring ___?” The answer is not always clear, as we’ll see.

Using a Protractor

Last time we looked at how to use a ruler to measure distances. This time, we’ll consider another common question over the years: how to use a protractor to measure angles. We’ll also consider the relationship between protractors and the compass and straightedge constructions that started this series on geometry tools. And just like last …

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Using a Ruler

Having just discussed why we use compass and straightedge in geometry, let’s flip that around and look at a common question at the more elementary level: How do you use a ruler to measure or draw a line of a given length? The usual issue here is working with the fractional markings on an inch …

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Compass and Straightedge: Why?

Some time ago I looked at questions about trisecting an angle by compass and straightedge, which entailed discussing the rules for such constructions. We left open another common question: Why are such constructions important, and why do we use those particular tools? This probably isn’t explained as often as it should be. Why does it …

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Order of Operations: Historical Caveats

To finish up this long series on the order of operations, I want to look at where the “rules” came from, which will also demonstrate why some aspects are not fully agreed upon, finishing up the discussion from last time.

Order of Operations: Fractions, Evaluating, and Simplifying

(An archive problem of the week) Last time we looked at the subtle distinction between the order of operations, which defines the meaning of an expression, and properties that allow us to do something other than what an expression literally says. Here I want to look at one longer discussion that brings out these issues …

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Order of Operations: Subtle Distinctions

Some questions we have been asked about the order of operations go beyond the what and why, pondering the relationship of the conventions both to theoretical matters (properties of operations) and to practical matters (evaluating and simplifying expressions). We will see here an important distinction between meaning and processes.

Order of Operations: Why These Rules?

Last time we looked at some questions about why we need rules for Order of Operations at all, with some hints in the answers as to why the rules we use make sense. This time I want to survey some deeper explanations.