Is Zero Positive or Negative? Even or Odd?

Last week we looked at some basics about zero; now let’s look at whether zero is positive or negative, and then at the topic of the recent comment that triggered this series: whether zero is even or odd.

Is Zero Really a Number?

A recent comment on the site raised questions about zero, beyond what we have discussed in the past about division by zero. Here we’ll look at basic questions about whether zero is actually a number at all, and then about multiplication by zero, which confuses a lot of people.

Polynomials: Why Are Terms What They Are?

A question last week (Hi, Zahraa!) led me to digĀ  up some old discussions of how we define a polynomial (or monomial, or term) and, specifically, why the exponents have to be non-negative integers. Why can we only multiply, and not divide by, variables? Since we’ve been looking at polynomials, let’s continue.

Why Are Functions Defined as They Are?

Last week we looked at what functions are; but many students wonder why it all matters. What makes them useful? What makes functions worth distinguishing from non-functions? Why do we make the distinction we do? We love “why” questions, because they make us think more deeply!

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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