What is Multiplication? How (Not) to Teach It

Last time we looked at the roles of multiplier and multiplicand from several perspectives. This time, I want to focus on one extended discussion about how children should be taught to think of multiplication.

What is Multiplication? Multiplicand and Multiplier

We have received many questions over the years about the meaning of multiplication. When we multiply , what are we really doing? This can confuse not only students and their parents, but also teachers. The next couple posts will deal with various aspects of this question.

Properties as Axioms or Theorems

To close out this series that started with postulates and theorems in geometry, let’s look at different kinds of facts elsewhere in math. What is commonly called a postulate in geometry is typically an axiom in other fields (or in more modern geometry); but what about those things we call properties (in, say, algebra)?

Derivative of Arcsin: From the Definition

(A new question of the week) In Monday’s post about fallacies in calculus, one of them used the definition of the derivative (or rather, misused it). Today we’ll look at a short question about applying that same definition, that came in last month.

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 …

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What Do Exponents Mean?

(New Question of the Week) We recently had a long discussion about a very common question from a somewhat different perspective: What do exponents (zero, negative, fractional, …) actually mean? The hard part, in the end, was to decide what “mean” means. What does it mean to define something in math? I will pick out the main thread of the …

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What is a Diamond?

(Archive Question of the Week) Having discussed various issues involving categorizing shapes, let’s take a look at a very different shape question, which didn’t fit into the last post. Is “diamond” appropriate? The word “diamond” is not a formal mathematical term; some people take it as equivalent to “rhombus”, while others equate it to “kite”, …

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