A Random Walk on a Graph

(A new question of the week) It seems that most of the interesting questions recently have been about relatively advanced topics, though commonly in introductory classes. Here, we’ll help a student think through a problem introducing the idea of a random walk on a graph. (“Graph” here doesn’t mean the graph of an equation, which …

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Arithmetic Series, Backward

Here is a recent question about arithmetic sequences and series (specifically, reversing the process to find the number of terms given the sum), that nicely illustrates a common type of interaction with a student: gathering information about both problem and student, then guiding them to use what they know, or giving new information as needed. …

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Sines Without Right Triangles

(A new question of the week) A recent question dealt with an apparent conflict between the right-triangle definition of sines and cosines, and the unit-circle definition, pertaining to multiples of 90° (angles on the axes). This provides an opportunity to look closely at the relationship between those two definitions. Two definitions Recall that the right-triangle …

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Simplifying Sums and Quotients of Radicals

(A new question of the week) A recent question asked about the reasons for differences in the work of simplifying different kinds of radical expressions. We’ll look at that general question, with two specific examples, and then consider an older problem of the same type.

Fractions and Felonies

(A new question of the week) A recent question involved a word problem about fractions, which will fit in nicely with the current series on fractions. We’ll explore several ways to solve a rather tricky fraction word problem, some avoiding fractions as much as possible, some focusing on the meaning of the fractions, and others …

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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.