Conventions

Order of Operations: Trigonometric Functions

(An archive question of the week) Last time we looked at some details that are rarely mentioned in stating the conventions for interpreting algebraic expressions. I couldn’t fit a discussion of the most complicated case: trigonometric functions, which when written without parentheses, as they traditionally have been, can raise several issues. (Much of the same …

Order of Operations: Trigonometric Functions Read More »

Order of Operations: Neglected Details

The basic statement of the order of operations covers the five main operations (exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction). But what about other operations like square roots? How about trigonometric functions? And are operations at the same level always carried out left to right? Here are some questions about the details we don’t often mention. …

Order of Operations: Neglected Details Read More »

Order of Operations: The Basics

The order of operations in algebra (also called operator precedence) is a very common source of questions; I count at least 50 archived discussions explicitly about the topic (not just mentioning it in passing), in addition¬†to the Ask Dr. Math FAQ on the subject.¬† I’ll devote the next few posts to looking at various aspects …

Order of Operations: The Basics Read More »

Significant Digits: Introduction

Our next series of posts will be about the concept of significant digits (also called significant figures), which are important in scientific or engineering calculations to keep track of the precision of numbers (although, as we’ll see, they are not what you would use when you need to be especially careful). We’ll start with the …

Significant Digits: Introduction Read More »