Why

Homogeneous Linear Recurrence Relations

Last week we looked at a recent question about recurrence relations, and I realized it needs a companion article to introduce these ideas. So here we will look at some answers from Ask Dr. Math about the simpler case, including general methods, why they work, and applications.

Negative x Negative = Positive? Concrete Illustrations

One of the more common questions we’ve been asked is, How can the product of two negative numbers be positive? Between this post and the next, I’ll put together many of the answers we have given, starting here with examples from the “real world” (gradually getting more abstract), and next time we’ll look at proofs. …

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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”.

Simplifying Sums and Quotients of Radicals

(A new question of the week) A recent question asked about the reasons for differences in the work of simplifying different kinds of radical expressions. We’ll look at that general question, with two specific examples, and then consider an older problem of the same type.

Multiplying Fractions by Whole or Mixed Numbers

Last week we looked at how to multiply fractions, and why we do it that way. But what do we do when one of the numbers is a whole number, or when one or both are mixed numbers? And do we have to do it the way we are taught?

Multiplying Fractions

Last week we looked at some questions about multiplication that arise once students learn to multiply fractions or decimals. Let’s turn to the underlying question: How do you multiply fractions, and why do we do it that way? How does cancelling fit in?

Decimals, Commas, Thousands, and Lakhs

I’ll finish this series on place value and writing numbers, with a question that’s not quite as simple as you might think: why we use commas and decimal points as we do. Americans may be surprised at some of the answers – and some of the questions.