## Why Proof Matters: Polynomial Zeros and Turning Points

A recent question from a student demonstrates that not everything on the Internet should be taken at face value – and that it’s easy to think you are right when you are not.

A recent question from a student demonstrates that not everything on the Internet should be taken at face value – and that it’s easy to think you are right when you are not.

Here is an interesting little question. Its answer is simple, and not hard to see just by graphing examples; yet the algebra is easy to get wrong, as we’ll see several times. And subtle errors deserve study.

(A new question of the week) We were recently asked to check work on an interesting little question about parallel vectors, and I was almost convinced that there was no solution … until I realized there was one! How was it missed? How can we avoid doing that? That’s our goal today.

(A new question of the week) This week, we’ll look at two recent questions about how parentheses (brackets) are used, how they relate to the properties we use in algebra that let us add or drop them, and the related concept of factoring a polynomial. They are examples of how student questions can touch on …

Parentheses and the Associative and Distributive Properties Read More »

(A new question of the week) A couple recent questions involved related subtleties in probability and combinatorics. Both were about apparent conflicts between similar problems involving cards and dice.

(A new question of the week) A recent question asked us to find errors in solving recurrence relations by the method of undetermined coefficients. We’ll see several things that can go wrong, and correct some misunderstandings.

(A new question of the week) It is not uncommon for students to ask about why they get different answers using different methods. Usually the answer is that the answers are really equivalent. This time, the answers really are different! This was partly the result of being taught an incomplete technique, omitting important cautions. And …

(A new question of the week) While I was looking through recent questions to choose one to post, I ran across one that deals with an error we see very commonly – in fact, a student I had worked with that very afternoon in face-to-face tutoring had done the same sort of thing. The context …

(A new question of the week) One of our first posts, in 2018, was about zeros in long division. But we still get many questions about this issue, and it’s time to dig in deeper. We’ll look here at two of them, answering the twin questions, “When do you put a zero in the quotient …

Two recent questions (that came to us within two hours) dealt with apparent contradictions in integration. The first seems to give a result of zero that is clearly wrong; the second seems to give two different results for the same integral.