Models

A Random Walk on a Graph

(A new question of the week) It seems that most of the interesting questions recently have been about relatively advanced topics, though commonly in introductory classes. Here, we’ll help a student think through a problem introducing the idea of a random walk on a graph. (“Graph” here doesn’t mean the graph of an equation, which …

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Dividing Fractions: Can You Picture It?

We’ve looked at what it means to multiply fractions, including whole and mixed numbers; now it’s time for division of fractions. We’ll start here with pictures, similar to what we did for multiplication, but a little more complicated. Then next time, we’ll see additional ways to understand why we “invert and multiply”.

Stars and Bars: Counting Ways to Distribute Items

We have been looking at ways to count possibilities (combinatorics), including a couple ways to model a problem using blanks to fill in. Today, we’ll consider a special model called Stars and Bars, which can be particularly useful in certain problems, and yields a couple useful formulas. (I only remember the method, not the formulas.) …

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A Fermi Problem

(An archive problem of the week) A couple weeks ago, in discussing the value of estimates, I included one example of a (very simple) Fermi problem: one in which it is necessary to invent the data as well as the method of solution. Today, I will examine one answer in which we dug deeper into …

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Averaging Angles

(Archive Question of the Week) An interesting question that has been referred to many times since it was written in 1999 deals with averaging angles. At first the question seems trivial; then almost impossible; and then we end up with a rather simple formula that is totally unlike what we started with. And further applications …

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What Operation Was She Doing?

(Archive question of the week) For Wednesdays, I plan to find a single interesting question from the past and discuss it. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about Ask Dr. Math is getting questions I’d never have thought of on my own, but which lead to some fascinating ideas. Here is an old favorite from …

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