How Real Are Negative Numbers?

This week we’ll look at some Ask Dr. Math questions like, “How can a number be less than zero?” and “Why do we need negative numbers?” We’ll see a number of examples of their use, and how negative numbers make life easier.

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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2020 and the Y0K Problem

The arrival of 2020 has brought to mind the various controversies at the start of the year 2000, also called Y2K. As a software engineer responsible for date-sensitive communications within large computer systems, I well recall being on call that Saturday, in case something went wrong. I also recall all the questions we got in …

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Fractions: What Are They, and Why?

We’ve looked at some specific ideas about fractions (their proper definition, their relationship to decimals, and how to divide them); it’s time to go through this topic from the beginning. Here we’ll look at how they are introduced to beginners, and how to keep them from hurting our brains! Parts of a whole Although, as …

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