Questions tagged [notation]

For questions about good use of notation, comparison of specific notation, motivation of notation.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
11 votes
5 answers
1k views

Lowercase vs. uppercase letters for matrix entries

For a matrix $A$ in, say for instance, $\mathbb{R}^{m \times n}$, there are at least two different conventions to denote its entry at position $(j,k)$: Denote the entry as $a_{jk}$. Denote the entry ...
8 votes
0 answers
168 views

References for mathematical notation for foreign students in the U.S

I teach quite a few foreign students at a U.S. university. Frequently students are placed in our most remedial math class due to not having placement scores and failing to test out of the course. I ...
  • 301
13 votes
4 answers
2k views

Why do we use functional composition in the order we do?

Function composition means, roughly, taking the output of a function and applying it to the input of another function. If we define an object C to represent this operation, we could say $C(f,g) = f∘g$ ...
1 vote
1 answer
222 views

Limit from both sides or from left? [closed]

Is it possible to write a problem statement as follows: A function $f$ is defined on $]0,1[$ as $f(x)=x$. Determine $\lim_{x\to 1}f(x)$. Or should one write always as: A function $f$ is defined on $]0,...
  • 21
6 votes
2 answers
322 views

Effective Strategies for Helping Students Recognize Nonsensical Expressions? (HS - Undergrad Level)

I'm not entirely how best to pose this question, so that it fits within the guidelines (so edits / suggestions for modification are warmly welcome). I'm interested in exploring effective strategies ...
  • 229
5 votes
3 answers
352 views

What's a good notation to show elements of relation composition?

Teaching discrete mathematics, we pose (from the textbook) questions on finding compositions of relations, notably, relations on very small finite sets with only 3 or 4 elements (as an introductory ...
6 votes
6 answers
794 views

Why do we write $x$ instead of $1x$?

I am currently student teaching for an Integrated Math 1 class (which is similar to Algebra 1) that consists of 9th graders. I have been teaching my students how to solve linear systems using ...
  • 1,057
7 votes
7 answers
4k views

What is the preferred way to denote the Pythagorean theorem equation?

I am teaching 12-16 year olds. How should I write down the Pythagorean theorem equation? Some alternatives: $a^2 + b^2 = c^2$ $\text{leg}^2 + \text{leg}^2 = \text{hypotenuse}^2$ $\text{leg}_1^2 + \...
  • 1,691
4 votes
7 answers
301 views

Should I avoid writing: $ 11:40 - 15 \text{ min} = 11:25$, and what are alternatives to this way of writing?

I want to stress to my students that we should be careful with how we treat the equals sign and that we should always make sure that the units match. However, sometimes I write $ 11:40 - 15 \text{ min}...
  • 1,691
19 votes
11 answers
5k views

Why do we still teach the determinant formula for cross product? And is it as bad as I think it is?

The cross product is an important vector operation in in any serious multivariable calculus course. In most textbooks that I'm aware of, right after the definition, we always introduce the ...
user avatar
8 votes
2 answers
317 views

Question about function notation

In the textbook I am using to teach mathematics to high school students I found the following illustration about composition of functions. I do not agree with this illustration. For me $g$ is the ...
10 votes
6 answers
2k views

What is the right notation to use in multivariable chain rules?

The following "chain rule" is in my multivariable calculus course: If $f$ depends on $x$ and $y$, but $x$ and $y$ depend on $t$, then $\frac{df}{dt} = \frac{\partial f}{\partial x} \frac{d ...
  • 19.1k
9 votes
2 answers
581 views

Fear of notation and hazily-appeared writing in Mathematics

I am looking for literature related to fear of notation in mathematics. It is even heard that the font size and font type make a reader reluctant to study mathematical literature, often lecture notes,...
14 votes
2 answers
721 views

The use of "$\therefore$" and "$\because$"

In schools, many students learn the usage of "$\therefore$" and "$\because$" in proofs. Such three-dot notation are popular in many high-school books and exams, but are almost ...
  • 1,625
1 vote
1 answer
223 views

What to call a symbol that denotes an "undisclosed" given number? [closed]

Students like to categorize notations to pin down their understanding of exactly what these notations stand for. Thus, given the expressions $f(x_{0})=f(x)|_{x\leftarrow x_{0}}$, $x=x_0+h$, or $lim_{x\...
  • 866
3 votes
3 answers
337 views

Students writing $f(x^2+1)$ when they probably mean $f(x)=x^2+1$

Over the past years teaching freshmen calculus I've repeatedly seen students make the following type of error: Suppose they have to express some quantity $y$ as function of $x$, when the relation ...
5 votes
2 answers
242 views

Undergraduate Vector Calculus Notation Mess

Question 1: What are your arguments in favor of the big array of different notations used in the context of undergraduate vector calculus: line integrals, surface integrals (of scalars and fields), ...
31 votes
6 answers
3k views

Allowing nonstandard mathematical language and/or notation

How important is enforcing standard mathematical language and/or notation? Today, I was questioned by a writing instructor as to how vital it is to correct students when they explain something using ...
  • 7,703
9 votes
1 answer
361 views

Terminology for parts of limit notation

When we talk about: $$\lim_{x\to{c}}f(x)=L$$ Is there a formal name for the number "$c$"? I know of course that it means "$L$ is the limit of $f(x)$ as $x$ approaches $c$". It just would be nice to be ...
  • 359
6 votes
1 answer
182 views

Notation in the definition of matrix multiplication

When matrix multiplication is introduced, it is usually introduced with an additional variable: Given two multiplicable matrices $A$, $B$, one defines the product $C=AB$ to be the matrix given by some ...
  • 161
6 votes
3 answers
238 views

Are there standard notations for 'number talks' / ‘math talks?'

I’m a homeschool teacher of a nine-year-old, and we sometimes have one-on-one ‘number talks’ (a.k.a. 'math talks') similar to the activity used in primary school classrooms. Part of this process ...
  • 331
26 votes
6 answers
10k views

Should we stop differentiating between ln and log?

In many U.S. middle schools and high schools, $\ln$ and $\log$ are treated differently, with the intent that $\log$ is equivalent to $\log_{10}$. However, in undergraduate courses and in the academic ...
  • 393
2 votes
2 answers
234 views

How should one approach the concept of "plus or minus", such as in the numerator of the quadratic formula?

The numerator is structured like: $$(-b)\pm\sqrt{b^2- 4ac}.$$ Is it confusing or acceptable to distinguish between the following two things? An idiom; and What is or seems to be a compositionally ...
  • 298
7 votes
5 answers
2k views

Teaching asymptotic notations at the beginning of calculus [duplicate]

I'm thinking about teaching calculus by firstly introducing the asymptotic notations (big-Oh, little-oh, and $\sim$), secondly explaining their "arithmetic" (things like how to sum little-oh's and ...
  • 569
6 votes
3 answers
298 views

The word "numeral", is it being taught and does the word exist for it in your language?

I am a mathematics educator from Lithuania and I have recently realized that there is no separate word in our language for the word "numeral". To be more precise there is no term to describe the ...
11 votes
5 answers
1k views

A different symbol for the indefinite integral/antiderivative?

Examples. An indefinite integral (or antiderivative) of $\cos$ is $\sin$: $$\int \cos = \sin.$$ Edit: There has been much unexpected confusion with the above statement. I define the above statement ...
user avatar
44 votes
21 answers
7k views

How to help new students accept function notation

I am struggling to help some of my new precalculus students accept function notation -- something new to them this term. I am looking for strategies to help them adopt this new notation. Their main ...
  • 7,703
3 votes
1 answer
166 views

Naming arbitrary constants: subscripts, primes, or just more letters?

When choosing names for arbitrary constants either during a lesson or while working with a single student, should one use$\{n_1,n_2,n_3,\dotsc\}$ or $\{n, n', n'', \dotsc\}$ or $\{a,b,c,\dotsc\}$? Is ...
  • 4,462
5 votes
1 answer
224 views

What is the notation for polynomial long division in Norway?

I will be teaching a calculus-type course in Norwegian. Our textbook is unfortunately in English (the curse of a small language), but any custom exercises should be and all exams have to be in ...
  • 4,746
10 votes
4 answers
2k views

Notation for change of basis matrix

As far as I can tell, it's only a slight exaggeration to say that every text has a different notation for a change of basis matrix from (say) $\mathcal{B}$ to $\mathcal{C}$. That's not even to talk ...
  • 5,750
11 votes
3 answers
508 views

Are there any negative consequences in applying operations/functions to a whole equality?

Some of my students solve equations not by applying the same operations on the left and right sides of an equation, but by applying the operation to the whole equality. For example, they may write ...
  • 1,341
7 votes
5 answers
950 views

In teaching mathematics, should one always follow some international standards such as ISO 80000-2?

ISO 80000-2:2009 is a standard describing mathematical signs and symbols developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). In teaching mathematics, should one always follow this ...
  • 4,051
-1 votes
1 answer
208 views

Duodecimal by Stealth

It is widely recognised that the Duodecimal number system is superior to the decimal system. However, it is plainly obvious that trying to introduce such a system would be difficult, especially in a ...
  • 865
11 votes
4 answers
963 views

Multiple students writing $y\frac{d}{dx}$ rather than $\frac{d}{dx}y$ -- why?

I'm currently teaching a couple of courses that have a calculus prerequisite, and within the last week I've had two students make notational mistakes that amount to writing $y\frac{d}{dx}$ rather than ...
user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
199 views

Can $y^{(n)}$ be used as a way of representing higher order derivatives?

I have never seen this notation, but I think that it follows in a similar vein for function notation. So if $y=f(x)$, then $y''=f''(x)$. Then by that, can we say that $$f^{(n)}(x)=y^{(n)}$$
20 votes
5 answers
695 views

How students write their work, and learning outcomes

While teaching students mathematics, I have noticed that some seem sloppy in the way that they write down their work. For example, a student is given a question: What is the area of the rectangle? <...
6 votes
4 answers
645 views

Who actually uses $\mathbf i$, $\mathbf j$, $\mathbf k$ for the standard unit vectors?

I am wondering which research communities use the notation $\mathbf i$, $\mathbf j$, $\mathbf k$ for the three-dimensional unit vectors. The calculus textbook I have to use (Stewart) uses that ...
  • 433
10 votes
3 answers
404 views

Framework for Compound Inequalities

I have been presenting compound inequalities like $3 < x < 7$ as being a shorter way of saying $3 < x$ and $x < 7$. From this point of view, though, I end up having to admit that ...
  • 19.1k
7 votes
2 answers
3k views

Is "hat notation" for unit vectors commonly used in mathematics?

As an undergraduate, I clearly remember learning and using "hat notation" to describe unit vectors. That is, if $\vec{v}$ is any vector (in 2 or 3 dimensions) then $\hat{v}$ denotes the unit vector ...
  • 16.5k
16 votes
5 answers
1k views

Why is multiplication taught using cross notation at first?

Alert: I am not a math educator. It seems to me that multiplication is first taught using the cross notation, for example $3\times 5=15$. First question - is that even correct? Maybe not all schools ...
  • 687
13 votes
5 answers
1k views

Writing Fractions "Correctly"

I very often see students writing, for example, $1/3x$ when they mean $\frac 13x$. I used to tell them not to write $1/3x$ beause it looks like $\frac{1}{3x}$ until I realized that, according to ...
19 votes
3 answers
2k views

Why are $m$ and $b$ used in the slope-intercept equation of a line?

The slope-intercept form of the equation of a line is often presented in textbooks (in the US) as $$y = mx + b\,,$$ where $m$ is the slope of the line and $b$ is the $y$-intercept. How did $m$ and $...
  • 4,462
4 votes
2 answers
145 views

What is the role of the efforts to change the fundamentals of maths? [closed]

One is often drawn to offbeat mathematical ideas and how they could revolutionize mathematics or at least make maths more easy to learn. Current examples are: Rational Trigonometry Tau Dozenal ...
  • 865
6 votes
3 answers
539 views

Wording VS mathematical notations

Is it better to write everything in words as the concepts themselves should be known? Or will some teachers in some countries prefer to be able to choose questions which also test the student's ...
21 votes
5 answers
3k views

Grating mathematical phrases---How to correct?

As mathematics educators, we all have come across students using mathematical notation incorrectly (looking at you, $\frac{d}{dx}$ vs $\frac{dy}{dx}$ or $\frac{\infty^2}{\infty}$). My question focuses ...
  • 931
12 votes
1 answer
371 views

Why do some of my, usually international/Indian students, write limits to the left of the integral?

I see a lot of my students (I am in the US), usually Indian, write the limits of integration to the LEFT of the integral sign rather than customary top or right. The formula will look for example like ...
user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
250 views

At what educational stage are angles greater than 180 introduced?

Prompted by the question, "How to denote angle?," I am interested to learn when students consider and reason with angles $> 180^\circ$. For example, when do they reason with an angle of $270^\...
11 votes
1 answer
1k views

How to denote angle?

I'm teaching mathematics on my free time for young pupils. Once I have seen that they denote angles like $\angle ABC$. But sometimes I have difficulties to understand whether they mean an angle or its ...
7 votes
3 answers
263 views

Design of a math exam using multiple choice or computer

I'm teaching math in first years of university (matrix algebra, differential analysis, etc.) since maybe 5 years, and I usually give written (paper) exams to the students. I'm looking for ideas to ...
user avatar
28 votes
6 answers
6k views

Misuse of parentheses for multiplication

I'd like to raise the issue of constant misuse of parentheses in the U.S., and I'm wondering if anybody else shares the same feelings, has had the same issues, knows any history behind it, and can ...