Notation

Order of Operations: Trigonometric Functions

(An archive question of the week) Last time we looked at some details that are rarely mentioned in stating the conventions for interpreting algebraic expressions. I couldn’t fit a discussion of the most complicated case: trigonometric functions, which when written without parentheses, as they traditionally have been, can raise several issues. (Much of the same …

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Six Distinguishable People in Four Distinguishable Rooms

(An archive question of the week) Last time we looked at some elementary problems in combinatorics, where we counted the number of ways to choose or arrange elements of a set. Let’s look at a somewhat more complicated problem, which will demonstrate issues that come up in interpreting such a problem and in choosing a …

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Conditional Probability and Multiple Choice

(A new question of the week) A recent question about probability has ties to Venn diagrams, tables, and Bayes’ Theorem. Questions about answering multiple-choice questions are common; this one offers a twist that provided opportunity to discuss several important concepts. Here is the initial question, from August: On a multiple choice question, only one answer is …

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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.

How to Convert a Fraction to a Decimal – and Why

(Archive Question of the Week) Fractions are a frequent source of questions from elementary students. I plan to devote several posts to various aspects of this, from using a common denominator to add fractions, to flipping and multiplying to divide fractions, to converting between improper fractions and mixed numbers. Here, I want to look at …

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Unfamiliar Geometry Notation

(New Question of the Week) One of the benefits of being a Math Doctor is interacting with the math of many cultures around the world, as we attract an international following. We have observed variations in terminology and notation from country to country, as well as variations in the content of math education (some better …

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