# Alternatives

## Principles for Solving a Formula

(An archive question of the week) Last time I discussed issues that arise in solving a simple algebraic equation. In researching that, I found a discussion of solving a formula for a variable (which in some countries is called “making x the subject”, that is, changing an equation involving x into the form “x = …

## 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.

## Proving an Identity in Different Ways

(A new question of the week) Having discussed trigonometric identities on Monday, let’s make this Trig Week, by looking at a discussion from two months ago in which we were asked about alternative routes to a proof.

## Different Ways to Prove a Trigonometric Identity

Proving trigonometric identities can be a major challenge for students, as it is often very different from anything they have previously done. Often they confuse this concept with solving an equation. But also, they may be give overly rigorous standards to comply with. Here, I will look at several discussions we have had about different …

## Two Solutions to an ODE

(New Question of the Week) This recent question involves an ordinary differential equation (ODE) and the relation between different solutions. It illustrates common difficulties in interpreting what a problem is asking for, as well as some communication problems involving language and notation.

## Challenging Rate Questions

(New question of the week) A conversation last week went through a number of interesting questions, starting with a couple on percentages, and moving into some that I would call rate questions. I will extract these, which I think will be useful for others. (The rest could, too, but there was just too much there …

## Integration: Partial Fractions and Substitution

(New Question of the Week) Many of the questions we answer are primarily about “how do you solve this problem?”, but at the same time ask deeper, more general questions: “How do you solve problems like this, and are there alternatives?” Today’s question is a good example of this, and raises an interesting point or …

## Is Area of a Square a Circular Argument?

(New Question of the Week) I love it when students want to know why something has to be the way it is, and are not satisfied just being told to use a formula. Last month, Shunya asked this kind of question, which gave me a chance to refer to our archive and go beyond it.

## Why Isn’t Slope Run Over Rise?

Definitions are interesting in several ways. Sometimes they are essentially arbitrary; other times there is a very good reason for them, and understanding that reason can be helpful in understanding and using them. But they are usually taught just as something to memorize. Let’s think about why slope is defined as it is, and not …

## Fun with a Quartic Equation

(New Question of the Week) Sometimes a problem leads to a very interesting discussion that brings out many good ideas – but then turns out to be something entirely different, which brings out even more (and simpler) ideas. This polynomial equation problem we helped with last week was like that. I will not be quoting …