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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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Three Times Larger: Idiom or Error?

Having just written about issues of wording with regard to percentages, we should look at another wording issue that touches on percentages and several other matters of wording. What does “three times larger” mean? How about “300% more”? We’ll focus on one discussion that involved several of us, and referred back to other answers we’ve …

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Talking About Percentages

A recent discussion with a student I was tutoring face to face, about an ambiguously worded problem, led me to gather a few answers we’ve given related to the words we use associated with percentages. Ambiguous percentages Here is a question from 2003: Clarifying Percentages vs. Percentage Points What is the difference between measuring using …

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Counting Faces, Edges, and Vertices

Over the years, we have had many questions, often from young students, asking how to count the parts (faces, edges, vertices) of a polyhedron (cube, prism, pyramid, etc.). The task requires understanding of terms, visualization of three-dimensional objects, and organizing the parts for accurate counting — all important skills. How can we help with this?