Why

Why Must the Number of Variables Equal the Number of Equations?

(New question of the week) Now that we are receiving questions at the new site, we will be periodically posting some of those questions and answers, in addition to going back to particularly interesting questions from the old archive. This question (which I have slightly edited) came to The Math Doctors earlier this month, from …

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Why We Care About “Why”

(Archive question of the week) One day back in November, as I entered the community college where I teach, a man came in behind me with his son, probably about 3 years old. It was the first snowy day of the year, and the father stood on the mat wiping his feet, while the little …

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Dividing Right to Left, Adding Left to Right

I now want to start looking more deeply at some specific questions at various levels, starting with arithmetic, then algebra and geometry. Students learning arithmetic (and their parents) tend to think in terms of following some rote procedure, just because “that’s the way it’s done”. Modern educators try to focus more on deep understanding, so …

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A Sample of Ask Dr. Math, Part 2: Questions Outside of School

In the first post, I gave a small sampling of questions we’ve had from students, parents, and teachers, all related to school, and discussed how we like to deal with these. But we also get many questions with no direct relation to school. These may come from people who actually use math in their work …

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