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Questions tagged [definitions]

For questions related to the issue of concepts of definitions.

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0answers
62 views

What are mathematical definitions? How are they decided upon? [on hold]

What are mathematical definitions? When(at what stage) and how do mathematicians come up with the basic definitions of the new mathematical concepts they have found? I BELIEVE in math I BELIEVE it's ...
-3
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1answer
85 views

When a geometrical figure a special case of another [closed]

Squares are special types of rectangles. Are circles special types of ellipses/ovals? Are cones special types of pyramids? I guess the answer is no because of the 2D basis: circles are not special ...
4
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0answers
83 views

Why define the names of quadrilaterals so that some categories (rhombus and rectangle) intersect and some (kite and trapezoid) are disjoint?

We're using Pearson's Geometry in my class. As terms are defined there, Parallelograms include Rhombi (congruent sides), Rectangles (right angles), Squares (congruent sides and right angles, i.e. ...
4
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2answers
121 views

Does solving crosswords help with recall of definitions?

I have an idea to help with self-study and recall of definitions. It is to create a crossword where the clues are the definitions and the words to solve are the concepts being defined. I haven't ...
6
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5answers
175 views

Differential equations - definitions

I am having a great deal of trouble with the definitions used throughout the book so far - i.e. linear, homogenous, non-homogenous, etc. I am not sure why exactly they are useful to know. I am having ...
16
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5answers
389 views

Against introducing precise definitions first

After introducing eight different ways of viewing the derivative of a function (infinitesimal, symbolic, logical, geometric, rate, approximation, microscopic), Thurston, in his famous essay, ...
14
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5answers
1k views

For purposes of teaching, should constant functions be considered “linear functions”?

I can see arguments both for and against classifying constant functions as linear functions. Against: "Linear function" means "first-degree polynomial function", and constant functions are not first-...
7
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6answers
279 views

Definition of the term, equation

What is the definition of an equation (as a mathematical terminology)? I have been using this term, equation, for a long time. I don't even remember when and where I have learned this term (Possibly, ...
4
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1answer
118 views

In Polynomial Form, After Simplification (But Not Before!)

We know that $\dfrac{(x^2+1)x^3}{x^2+1}=x^3$ and $(\sqrt{|x|})^4=x^2$ for every $x\in \mathbb{R}$. Can $\dfrac{(x^2+1)x^3}{x^2+1}$ and $(\sqrt{|x|})^4$ be called polynomials? Is there a general name ...
9
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1answer
300 views

Alternative limit for e

I have recently worked with some students motivating the development of $e^t$ and $e^{t i}$ as summing change over time, basically informally solving differential equations. My motivation for this is ...
17
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5answers
542 views

What is a variable?

There are two kinds of answers I'm looking for: What do students think a variable is? What do YOU, the teacher, think a variable is? I'm also interested in why you think a variable is what you think ...
4
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2answers
467 views

Why is continuity only defined on its domain?

As mentioned in this question students sometimes struggle with the fact that continuity is only defined at points of the function's domain. For example the function $f:\mathbb R\setminus\{0\} \to \...
3
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1answer
398 views

Why is continuity defined as a local property?

The formal definition of continuity is a local property (the definition of continuity at a point is a property of the germ of the function at this point). Why is it a good decision to make the ...
18
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7answers
784 views

How can I motivate the formal definition of continuity?

In order to teach continuity of real valued functions $f:D\to\mathbb R$ one may start with the (in some sense wrong) intuition $f$ is continuous when its graph can be drawn without lifting the pen. ...
9
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3answers
256 views

Defining vertical tangent lines

In looking at the definition of vertical tangent lines in some popular calculus texts, I noticed that there are a few different definitions for this term, including the following: A function $f$ ...
5
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4answers
503 views

What is the intuition behind the limit superior?

I want to write an article which explains the limit superior. I also want to present the intuition behind this concept. Currently I would describe the limit superior as the "least upper bound of a ...
11
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5answers
889 views

Rigorously defining the concept of an angle for high school students

Arriving at a rigorous definition of the concept of angle for high school students is not as easy as expected. Google search provided me with many definition that are too technical or too vague IMO. ...
19
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2answers
731 views

Can students tell the difference between the “definition if” and the “theorem if”?

The word "if" is used in two meanings in mathematics: Definition. A topological space is compact if every open cover has a finite subcover. Theorem. A topological space is compact if it is ...
5
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2answers
101 views

What are the questions one should ask of oneself in trying to understand definitions and lemmas? [closed]

Definition (Finite series). Let $m,n$ be integers, and let $(a_i)_{i=m}^{n}$ be a finite sequence of real numbers, assigning a real nmber $a_i$ to each integer $i$ between $m$ and $n$ inclusive. Then ...
11
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3answers
314 views

Why is Distribution Prioritized Over Combining?

In every algebra (or basic analysis) book that I've seen, three properties of real numbers are taken as axiomatic: commutativity, association, and distribution of multiplication over addition [$a(b + ...
8
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2answers
241 views

Is multiplication by zero clear for and understood by K-3 students?

For K-3 students, perhaps it is not acceptable to introduce multiplication by zero as a property or definition. Instead, the child may think about multiplication as, e.g., repeated addition. ...
4
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2answers
887 views

how is volume different than capacity

I have in mind that volume is the amount of room or space a 3-d object takes up - its "outsideness" and that capacity with the amount of room or space a 3-d object can hold. Then I start thinking ...
10
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2answers
240 views

What is a good way to explain the slightly different kinds of continuity?

What is a good way to explain the slightly different kinds of continuity to students? I have in mind these kinds of continuity: A function is continuous at a point. (This also has two sub-kinds: ...
12
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4answers
372 views

Explaining subjects whose justification requires demanding technical content

This is my first question and I hope it's appropriate. Often in the process of teaching a subject I start with examples of a phenomenon, exhibiting similar properties between the examples and ...
19
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9answers
2k views

The definition of natural log and e

I'm asking this question from the point of view of an introductory non-rigorous calculus instructor. Calculus textbooks have different approaches about how to define $e$ and $\ln$. For example, my ...
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8answers
1k views

Are there disadvantages to teaching complex numbers as purely geometrical objects?

Complex numbers are, or at least were to me, generally introduced like this: There's no number whose square is negative. That's a shame! Well, whatever - we'll make one up! Set $i^2=-1$ and declare ...
18
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8answers
2k views

Why do students have problems with showing that something is well-defined? How can this be improved?

I see a lot of students struggling when they have to show that something is well-defined. I have the feeling that this is often not understood. Two examples: When defining a sequence $x_n= g(x_{n-1}...
4
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1answer
86 views

Morphism-oriented definitions

For some objects there are alternate definitions, which are "morphism-oriented". To give some examples, there are two definitions of a prime number: $p$ is prime if it is greater than $1$ and has no ...