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.

Distances on Earth 3: Planar Approximation

We’ve looked at two formulas for the distance between points given their latitude and longitude; here we’ll examine one more formula, which is valid only for small distances. This is a “flat-earth approximation” to distance.

Average Rate of Change of a Function

(A new question of the week) Average rate of change is a topic taught in pre-calculus and calculus courses, primarily as preparation for the derivative, though it has more immediate applications. A recent question asked about when the concept is valid, which I found interesting.

Help with Factoring: Trinomials

(A new question of the week) I recently had a pleasant discussion of factoring, with the kind of student for whom I returned to teaching: one who has been away from math for a while, and with greater maturity has the determination to succeed. We’ll see several examples of the “ac-grouping” method of factoring a …

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Implicit Differentiation: Explanation, Examples, and a Surprise

In response to a recent request for information about implicit differentiation (hi, Brian!), let’s take a look at that topic. It happens to be distantly related to Friday’s topic, which was about implicitly defined curves. We’ll start with a thorough explanation, and then look at several specific examples, capping it off with a weird one.

Fibonacci, Pascal, and Induction

A couple weeks ago, while looking at word problems involving the Fibonacci sequence, we saw two answers to the same problem, one involving Fibonacci and the other using combinations that formed an interesting pattern in Pascal’s Triangle. I promised a proof of the relationship, and it’s time to do that. And while we’re there, since …

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