How Many Different Pizzas?

(An archive question of the week) We’ve been looking at examples of extended discussions with students about various kinds of problems. Here, we have one (not from a student) that led to some good thinking about combinatorics – the techniques of counting the ways something can happen. The problem: Triple toppings Here’s the question, from …

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Too Many Variables?

(An archive question of the week) Students often struggle with solving an equation with several variables, for one of those variables. This is also called “solving a formula”, or a “literal equation”; or “making one variable the subject”. Learning to use variables instead of just numbers (as we looked at last week) is the first …

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Non-routine Algebra Problems

(A new problem of the week) Last week I mentioned “non-routine problems” in connection with the idea of “guessing” at a method. Let’s look at a recent discussion in which the same issues came up. How do you approach a problem when you have no idea where to start? We’ll consider some interesting implications for …

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Too Much Guessing?

Today we’ll look at a question from a student who was troubled by the amount of guessing needed to solve certain problems. This leads to an interesting survey of different kinds of guessing, and ways to develop that skill. When do we need to guess in math? The question is from 2017: More Methodical Than …

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When Parameters Become Variables

(An archive question of the week) I’m looking for past questions that led to deep discussions. This week, we have a case where a student realized he was doing algebra by rote, not thinking about what variables really mean. This realization was triggered by a step that many students stumble over, where parameters change their …

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Integrals and Signed Areas

(A new question of the week) This week’s question, asked in January on the new site, will take us through some tricky areas of calculus, and also give a glimpse both of the value of quoting the entire problem you are working on when you ask for help, and of the interesting side discussions we …

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