Arithmetic

Greatest Common Divisor: Extending the Definition

Having just talked about definition issues in geometry, I thought a recent, short question related to a definition would be of interest. We know what the Greatest Common Divisor (GCD, also called the Greatest Common Factor, GCF, or the Highest Common Factor, HCF) of two numbers is; or do we? Negative GCD? Here is the …

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A Fermi Problem

(An archive problem of the week) A couple weeks ago, in discussing the value of estimates, I included one example of a (very simple) Fermi problem: one in which it is necessary to invent the data as well as the method of solution. Today, I will examine one answer in which we dug deeper into …

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What is Multiplication? How (Not) to Teach It

Last time we looked at the roles of multiplier and multiplicand from several perspectives. This time, I want to focus on one extended discussion about how children should be taught to think of multiplication.

What is Multiplication? Multiplicand and Multiplier

We have received many questions over the years about the meaning of multiplication. When we multiply , what are we really doing? This can confuse not only students and their parents, but also teachers. The next couple posts will deal with various aspects of this question.

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.