Definitions

Cartesian Product of Sets

(A new question of the week) I had a long discussion recently about the Cartesian product of sets, answering questions like, “How is it Cartesian?” and “How is it a product?” I like discussions about the relationships between different concepts, and people who ask these little-but-big questions. We’ll be looking at about a quarter of …

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What is a Set … Really?

Sometimes the more basic an idea is, the harder it is to define it. It is also very hard to understand a definition in English when you are not a native speaker! We have had some interesting discussions of such issues recently with a student who asks very basic and yet very challenging questions of …

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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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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.

Four Kinds of “Mean”

Last week, we looked at exactly what the mean is, referring specifically to the arithmetic mean, the one we first learn as the “average”. But just as we previously saw that there are several things called “average” (mean, median, mode), there are in fact several different kinds of “mean”. We’ll look here at the arithmetic, …

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Three Kinds of “Average”

There are three different statistics that are commonly taught as “averages”, or “measures of central tendency”, of a set of numbers: mean, median, and mode. (There are others as well, which we will get to later.) What are they? How do they differ? How do you use them? We’ll look into questions like these as …

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The Symmetric Derivative

To close out this series on the definition of the derivative, I want to look at a few questions about alternative versions of the definition, primarily the “symmetric difference quotient”. We’ll see that this leads to a slightly different result, not always equivalent to the original, and we’ll observe some associated ways that calculators can …

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What is a Derivative?

To start a series of posts on differentiation (one of the basic concepts studied in calculus), I’d like to look at a number of answers we’ve given to the basic question, What is a derivative? This includes questions about the meaning of the concept and its definition, as well as examples. Something all these questions …

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