# Ambiguity

## Inverse Trig Notation: What Do sin^-1 and arcsin Mean?

Since we’ve been looking at an example of ambiguity in notation, let’s look at a very different one. There is a lot to be confused by in inverse trigonometry! We’ll try to untangle the notations of $$\sin^{-1}$$ and $$\arcsin$$.

## Implied Multiplication 2: Is There a Standard?

This is part 2 of a series of extracts from discussions we have had on whether multiplication implied by juxtaposition is to be done before division (which I call IMF, for Implied Multiplication First). Some people write to us claiming that there is one official correct answer. Are they right?

## Implied Multiplication 1: Not as Bad as You Think

We keep getting new questions related to Order of Operations: Implicit Multiplication?, where we discussed expressions like 6/2(1+2) that keep showing up in social media arguments. Since I closed comments on that page some time ago, because of the toxicity of some of them, further questions have come through our Ask a Question page (as …

## Zero to the Zero Power: Indeterminate, or Defined?

Last week we looked at numbers raised to the zero power, as part of our series on oddities of zero. We’ve looked at zero divided by zero in the past, and just recently observed how 0 to the 0 power relates to degree in polynomials, which is part of the motivation for this series. But …

## Boxes, Whiskers, and Outliers

Last week we looked at one way to display data, the stem-and-leaf plot. This time, we’ll look at a very different one, the box-and-whisker plot, which summarizes the data more broadly.

## What are Length and Width?

One of the recent discussions I showed last week dealt with the meaning of length, and I promised more about that. Here we will look at some older questions about the ambiguity of words  like length, width, depth, and height.

## Clarifying Definitions: Triangle, Rectangle, Circle

(A new question of the week) Several recent questions involved details about definitions of geometrical objects, so I thought I’d group them together, because each is relatively short. We’ll be looking at the definitions of triangles (do we need to say “exactly three sides”?), rectangles (did Euclid use an exclusive definition?), and circles (can the …

## Combinatorics: Multiple Methods, Subtle Wording

(A new question of the week) With few new questions of general interest available this week, I thought I’d go back a few months to a couple little questions on a topic we haven’t dealt with lately, combinatorics. We’ll have one question each on permutations and combinations, showing some subtlety in both the methods we …

## Solving a Triangle: What Went Wrong?

Trigonometry can be a powerful tool for solving sides and angles in triangles. But you have to be careful with it! We’ll look at a classic type of error in solving an SSA triangle, get three explanations, and then see how knowing the context of a question can change our answer – to the point …

## Broken Sticks, Triangles, and Probability II

Last week, we looked at two solutions to the problem of finding the probability that you can make a triangle using three pieces of a stick, if we cut it at two independently chosen, random locations. This time, we look another solution to that problem, and a similar solution to the version in which we …