Dave Peterson

(Doctor Peterson) A former software engineer with degrees in math, I found my experience as a Math Doctor starting in 1998 so stimulating that in 2004 I took a new job teaching math at a community college in order to help the same sorts of people face to face. I have three adult children, and live near Rochester, N.Y. I am the author and instigator of anything on the site that is not attributed to someone else.

Principles for Solving a Formula

(An archive question of the week) Last time I discussed issues that arise in solving a simple algebraic equation. In researching that, I found a discussion of solving a formula for a variable (which in some countries is called “making x the subject”, that is, changing an equation involving x into the form “x = …

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Principles for Solving an Equation

Questions about solving algebraic equations are common. Here I will bring together several answers where we discussed the basic principles for solving relatively simple equations, which are important to learn well before moving on to quadratic equations and beyond.

What is a Fraction, Really?

(An archive question of the week) One of the things I have learned as a Math Doctor is that it can be dangerous looking up a definition online. Sources vary — not because they are wrong, but because definitions depend on context, so you can easily find what appear to be contradictions because they refer …

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Dividing Fractions: How and Why

Fractions have always given students trouble, and we have had many questions about working with them. Even looking only at division of fractions, I have had to restrict my attention to a few sample answers. These show the reasons for the standard method, presented in a variety of ways, together with some alternative methods.

Proving an identity in different ways

(A new question of the week) Having discussed trigonometric identities on Monday, let’s make this Trig Week, by looking at a discussion from two months ago in which we were asked about alternative routes to a proof.

Two Solutions to an ODE

(New Question of the Week) This recent question involves an ordinary differential equation (ODE) and the relation between different solutions. It illustrates common difficulties in interpreting what a problem is asking for, as well as some communication problems involving language and notation.