AQOTW

An Introduction to Trigonometry

(An archive question of the week) While I’m showing some recent explanations of basic trigonometry techniques, this is a good time to look at an even more basic explanation of the essentials of the subject for a beginner. Right triangle trigonometry Here is the question, from 2001: Trigonometry in a Nutshell I’m in 8th grade …

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Equations with Fractions: Three Ways to Solve Them

Since we just looked at a complicated rational inequality, let’s look at some simpler rational equations, first a linear equation with fractions, and then truly rational equations, in which the variable(s) appear in the denominator. This discussion dealt with a common confusion I’ve seen in students. The problem The question came from Fairooz in 2017: …

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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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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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