# Strategies

## A Rational Equation, With and Without Extraneous Roots

(A new question of the week) Extraneous roots can not only confuse the final solution to a problem; they can also make it harder to solve in the first place if you don’t deal with them early. Here is a relatively complicated rational equation, two questions about its solutions, and several ways to make it …

## Finding a Symmetric Polynomial Given Others

A recent question (whose asker refused to cooperate by showing work, so that we were unable to help) reminded me that we haven’t yet shown a similar kind of problem that can be quite interesting: problems where we are given the value of one or several expressions in several variables, and are asked for the …

## Using the Angle Sum and Difference Identities

Here is a short discussion of a common type of problem in trigonometry classes: finding a trig function of the sum or difference of two angles, given minimal information about them.

## Advanced Logarithm Problems

(A new question of the week) Here is an interesting collection of problems involving logarithms with different bases, which require some unique thinking. And after we’d worked out a good strategy, another problem arose at a whole new level.

## A Composite Quartic Equation

A question just after we recently discussed quartic equations, has special features that lead to a unique solution method. We’ll be showing how to use synthetic division, and seeing some interesting graphs.

## Factoring Tricks from an Old Textbook

(A new question of the week) Last week I discussed several Ask Dr. Math questions about factoring quartic polynomials, which had been on my list of potential topics. That list also included a question on that topic from three years ago, that didn’t make it into the blog at the time. That will lead us …

## Factoring a Quartic Polynomial

Factoring a quadratic polynomial (degree 2) is a standard topic in algebra; but for higher degrees, things get a lot harder. Here we’ll look at some old questions from the Ask Dr. Math site about factoring quartic (degree 4) polynomials. There is no standard method, but several interesting tricks you might want to know about.

## Two Tricky Questions on Tangent Lines

(A new question of the week) Sometimes we have lots of quick questions and a number of long discussions, neither of which seems suitable for a post. This time I’ve chosen to combine two distantly related questions, one recent and one from several months ago, both involving tangent lines to functions.

## Trig Identities: Where’d That Come From?

(A new question of the week) Proving a trigonometric identity can be a challenge; sometimes even when we read someone else’s proof, we can fail to see how they came up with a seemingly magical step. We’ll look at two such identities here, and consider how to bridge a gap when we are stuck.

## Average Distance Between Two Sets of Points

(A new question of the week) Here we have a different kind of question than usual: A conjecture about distances between points, with a request for confirmation. Normally we like to just give hints to help a student figure something out; this was a request for a theorem that ought to exist, and trying to …