Mistakes

(A new question of the week) Sometimes a topic you think you know looks entirely different in an unfamiliar context. Here, a returning student faces a quadratic equation where x and y are reversed, making the quadratic formula seem foreign! But this is when real learning happens, when you are forced to think through the …

(A new question of the week) We had a long discussion last August about domain and range of functions involving either quadratic functions or restricted domains (or both). Two Math Doctors got involved, offering different ways to approach the same problem. I’ve edited the discussion to avoid some intermingling of topics.

Order of Operations: Common Misunderstandings

Last time I started a series looking at the Order of Operations from various perspectives. This time I want to consider several kinds of misunderstandings we often see.

Frequently Questioned Answers: The Other Child

This is the second in a series on Frequently Questioned Answers – that is, answers we have given that are often challenged by readers, either just out of confusion, or in the form of attacks on our intelligence or honesty. Here, we look at the problem of finding the probability that, given knowledge about one …

The Ask Dr. Math site includes a Frequently Asked Questions page with extended discussions of common topics like Fractions, Order of Operations, and Prime Numbers. Some topics get a lot of push-back from readers who disagree, some from curiosity, others with virulence. The next few posts will examine our answers to some of these challenges, …

L’Hôpital’s Rule: One More Example

(A new question of the week) Having just looked at L’Hôpital’s Rule, we can conclude with a look at a recent question about it, to illustrate the reality of struggling to apply it (and the process we go through to help a student find an error).

Combining Function Transformations: Order Matters

Last time we looked at questions about how to shift, stretch, or flip a graph by changing the equation of a function. All our examples involved only a single transformation. Now we can look at cases where two or more transformations are combined. As we do this, we will develop a deeper understanding of how …

Finding the Range of a Tricky Rational Function

I previously wrote about finding the range of various kinds of functions. The examples there were relatively easy. A recent question raised the level of difficulty, bringing up some interesting issues.

A Bad System of Nonlinear Equations

(A new question of the week) Sometimes a problem that looks complicated turns out to have a simple answer. And sometimes that simple answer turns out to be too simple for its own good. Today’s problem is an example of this.

The Gambler’s Fallacy

Probability seems simple enough to many people that it can fool them into wrong conclusions. We have had many questions that involve the “Gambler’s Fallacy”, both from people who naively assume it without thinking, and from some who defend it using technical ideas like the Law of Large Numbers. The Gambler’s Fallacy Here is a …