# Context

## 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 …

## Do Curved Surfaces Have Faces, Edges, and Vertices?

Having discussed how to count faces, edges, and vertices of polyhedra, and then looked at Euler’s formula that relates them (not only in polyhedra but in graphs on planes and other surfaces), we need to consider a question we have received at least 100 times: Are these terms even defined (or defined correctly) for cylinders, …

## 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 …

## Open or Closed Intervals? It Depends

(Archive Question of the Week) Students commonly expect that textbooks all say the same thing (in fact, some think they can ask us about “Theorem 6.2” and we’ll know what they’re talking about!). The reality is that they can even give conflicting definitions, depending on the perspective from which they approach a topic. Here, I …

## Mean, Median, Mode: Which is Best?

It seems common for teachers to ask students which “measure of central tendency” (average) is best. Sometimes they ask this in a particular context (say, to report the “average” salary at a company); other times there is no context (other than perhaps some unidentified data). In the latter case, we generally consider the question to …