# Words

## What is the Meaning of “Locus”?

A recent question asked about an interesting locus, which led me to realize we haven’t talked about that topic in general. Here we’ll look at what a locus is, using three simple examples, and then dig into a question about the wording.

## Trig Terminology: What Do Those Words Mean?

Students sometimes wonder why the trigonometric functions (sine, cosine, tangent, secant, and so on) have the names they do, and how they relate to the corresponding terms in geometry. How are the tangent and secant functions related to tangent and secant lines in trigonometry? And what in the world is a sine? Here we’ll look …

## Limits: What Does “Approach” Mean?

(A new question of the week) We’ve looked at the concept of limit of a function from several perspectives, including why they are needed, and what the definition means. Here we have a more fundamental question, which applies to both functions and sequences: What do we mean when we say a value approaches some number? …

## Negative vs Minus: Two Words, One Symbol?

Last time we looked into terminology related to negative numbers; one subtopic was too big to fit, so I’ve broken it out into a separate post. How are the concepts of “negative” and “minus” (subtraction) related? How much do we need to distinguish them? We’ll look at two questions, the first from a child focused …

Last week we looked at what negative numbers mean; here we’ll consider a number of questions we’ve been asked about the terminology of signed numbers: what “negative” means, and other words for negative numbers. Up, down, and opposite This question from 1998 asks about translating words to signed numbers: Converting Words to Numbers Can you …

## What is a Set … Really?

Sometimes the more basic an idea is, the harder it is to define it. It is also very hard to understand a definition in English when you are not a native speaker! We have had some interesting discussions of such issues recently with a student who asks very basic and yet very challenging questions of …

## Does a Linear Function Have to be Continuous?

(A new question of the week) As we approach a new year, I want to start cleaning up a backlog of recent questions, and start posting more typical interactions, rather than waiting for the most momentous. Many of these will therefore be relatively short! This one goes back to last July, but it connects to …

## Improper Fractions: What Are They, and Why?

In working through topics pertaining to fractions, I find that questions about improper fractions are common. Today we’ll look at questions about the definition of the term, and next time we’ll move on to mixed numbers and how to convert between the two forms.

## Using a Protractor

Last time we looked at how to use a ruler to measure distances. This time, we’ll consider another common question over the years: how to use a protractor to measure angles. We’ll also consider the relationship between protractors and the compass and straightedge constructions that started this series on geometry tools. And just like last …

## Using a Ruler

Having just discussed why we use compass and straightedge in geometry, let’s flip that around and look at a common question at the more elementary level: How do you use a ruler to measure or draw a line of a given length? The usual issue here is working with the fractional markings on an inch …