# Month: April 2020

## “Order of Operations” Puzzles

We have often received questions about things called “Order of Operations problems”, or some similar name. Generally, what that means is simply that they are puzzles to give lots of practice evaluating expressions using the order of operations. I have collected a few quite different puzzles in this broad category.

## The 24 Game and Kin

We are looking at various mathematical puzzles and games, with a focus on discussing rules and strategies, and then letting you play. Last time we discussed Four Fours, in which we are given a fixed set of “inputs” to a calculation (usually 4, 4, 4, 4), and want to find expressions that yield as many …

## Four Fours and Friends

This has been a good time for doing puzzles to stay busy (as a family, or a class, or as distanced friends, for instance). The next few posts will present various mathematical puzzles and games you might enjoy. Although often when a problem I quote was originally left unsolved, I have filled in the gap …

## John Conway on Thinking and Teaching

(An archive question of the week) When I heard Thursday that the great mathematician John Conway had died (see the New York Times obituary here), I recalled not only his books I have read, but his involvement in Ask Dr. Math‘s early days. In addition to a couple dozen quotes from him, there were several …

(A new question of the week) Having just discussed several mathematical topics that lie behind the various graphs we have seen in the news lately, I want to depart from our usual style and answer my own current questions. We’ll look at several graphs of COVID-19’s growth and think about what we can learn from …

## Logarithmic Graphing

We’ve been looking at the math underlying some of the graphs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, starting with exponential growth, and then logistic growth. I want to look in more detail at a feature I mentioned in the first post, viewing a graph logarithmically. This is a powerful technique that goes far beyond a button …

## Logistic Growth

Last time we looked at the meaning of exponential growth, a term commonly used in describing the initial spread of a virus such as the current SARS2 (which causes COVID-19). But exponential growth can’t continue forever, as it would soon exceed the total population. A slightly more complicated model for growth that takes into account …

## Exponential Growth

The term “exponential” has gone viral, so to speak. Do we all know what it means? In the next few posts I’ll look at answers we’ve given to questions about exponential growth and related concepts, some of them about the spread of diseases or rumors. (Disclaimer: I will be writing about the basic math, not …

## Trig Functions Meet Polynomials

(A new question of the week) A recent series of questions from one student involved interesting combinations of trigonometric identities and solutions of polynomials. At one time using trig to solve equations was far better known than it is today, and these presumably are meant in part as an introduction to those ideas. Some were …