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Questions tagged [notation]

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

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4 votes
2 answers
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Correct notation of a Sample space

From the very beginning I have used the notation $ S = \{ H , T \} $ as the Sample space for tossing a coin once and $ S = \{ HH , HT , TH , TT \} $ in the case of tossing a coin twice.I have several ...
Janaka Rodrigo's user avatar
7 votes
3 answers
366 views

Why is it written $\tan^{-1}$?

I was showing my neighbour's daughter how to do simple sine, cosine and tangent questions and their inverses. She could do the questions fine but she asked me why the calculator button for inverse tan ...
Judith Jones's user avatar
-5 votes
1 answer
107 views

Mnemonics for memorizing the difference between a closed interval and an open interval

Here are some suggestions for memorizing the difference between an open interval and a closed interval. [a,b]={x|a<=x<=b} (a,b)={x|a<x<b} The first thing I would notice is that the bracket ...
Joselin Jocklingson's user avatar
-4 votes
2 answers
271 views

Order of operations pemdas

Why was the order of operations established in mathematics with multiplication taking precedence over addition, as dictated by the PEMDAS rule? What historical or practical factors influenced this ...
Humberto José Bortolossi's user avatar
9 votes
3 answers
1k views

Is there a standard convention for interpreting ambiguous absolute value expressions?

Consider the expression $$|x + 2|x + 3|x + 4|.$$ One way to interpret this is that there are two products being added together: $$|x+2|x \hspace{1cm} + \hspace{1cm} 3|x+4|$$ But you could also ...
Justin Skycak's user avatar
9 votes
7 answers
2k views

Is there a resource for learning to read mathematical notation/equations/formulae?

Ideally, I am looking for an online resource. But a book or any other would help already. Background: I am a senior teaching assistant in the field of business and statistics. Most of my students have ...
Nibood_the_slightly_advanced's user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
2k views

Explaining Sigma-Notation

I attempted to introduce the summation notation $\Sigma$ to my students. The notation was unfamiliar to the students beforehand. I worked through many examples with them, but for most of them, working ...
wayne's user avatar
  • 193
24 votes
5 answers
6k views

Correcting how a student writes symbols

One of my college students writes the Greek letter $\pi$ as a script n with a bar over it, like $\bar{n}$. [There is actual space between the letter and the bar.] I have never seen this before, and ...
Nick C's user avatar
  • 9,639
3 votes
3 answers
257 views

Is there a preferred way to format a negative exponent?

Say there's an exam question whose answer is $x$ to the power of negative one. Two ways of writing this are $x^{-1}$ and $\frac{1}{x}$. I know that questions will sometimes request an answer without ...
Alex Johnson's user avatar
4 votes
0 answers
118 views

Activities that encourage students to create or evaluate mathematical notations

I'm looking for references about activities that encourage elementary school students to create or evaluate mathematical notations. do you know any?
Humberto José Bortolossi's user avatar
3 votes
5 answers
894 views

Simple examples of how a good notation or diagram can help to solve math problems

I am looking for simple examples of situations where a good notation/diagram was fundamental for solving an elementary problem in mathematics (I am looking for examples accessible to a basic school ...
Humberto José Bortolossi's user avatar
14 votes
4 answers
5k views

Parentheses around negative numbers

We teach students that a notation like $$17 - -59$$ is not acceptable or at least not good. Instead we want them to write $$17-(-59)$$ The main reason seems to be that it's more readable if you ...
realGottlob's user avatar
7 votes
4 answers
4k views

What implication arrows, if any, should I require in teaching?

Q: Solve $x+5=0$. A: $x+5=0\implies x=-5$. This answer would be given full marks. Isn’t it better to tell students to use $\equiv$ or $\iff$? Because that is what lets them say $-5$ is a solution to ...
Vivaan Daga's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
408 views

Do Greek students use Greek letters to denote angles?

In western schools is a tradition to use Greek letters to denote angles. I wonder what about Greek schools do they also use Greek letters to denote angles or do they prefer other kind of alphabet to ...
Humberto José Bortolossi's user avatar
3 votes
3 answers
1k views

How to teach using brackets in sums?

How one should teach using brackets in summation? For example, why is it correct to write $\sum_i a_ib_i$ but $\sum_i a_i+b_i$ should be written as $\sum_i (a_i+b_i)$ But $\sum_i\frac{a_i+b_i}{2}$ is, ...
guest's user avatar
  • 41
0 votes
1 answer
241 views

Which are the most used Greek letters in math textbooks?

I am looking for a list of the most frequent Greek letters used in high school and college textbooks or some other corpora. I've realized my students don't know Greek letters and I would like to teach ...
Humberto José Bortolossi's user avatar
8 votes
5 answers
404 views

Should one include the unit in the variable? E.g. should one write $x^\circ = 30^\circ$ or $x = 30^\circ$?

I sometimes come across equations like $x^\circ = 180^\circ - \frac{360^\circ}{n}$ where I would write $x = 180^\circ - \frac{360^\circ}{n}$, or like $3 \text{ cm} + x \text{ cm} = 5 \text{ cm}$ where ...
Improve's user avatar
  • 1,881
2 votes
2 answers
235 views

How to introduce the use of Greek letters in high school?

I am looking for any hints or experience reports or materials/potential difficulties about how to introduce the use of Greek letters in high school Math/Physics.
Humberto José Bortolossi's user avatar
4 votes
0 answers
125 views

What should I do when I, as a math tutor, use incorrect verbal notation?

I do freelance tutoring; the math-related ones are mostly 1-2 hour one-on-one sessions for high school and college students taking calculus classes. Often I find myself scrambling for words - I don't ...
bobble's user avatar
  • 375
10 votes
5 answers
2k 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 ...
Jochen Glueck's user avatar
8 votes
0 answers
186 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 ...
Alan's user avatar
  • 301
15 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 $C(f,g) = f∘g$ ...
David Lalo's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
324 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,...
guest's user avatar
  • 21
6 votes
2 answers
361 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 ...
Rax Adaam's user avatar
  • 229
5 votes
3 answers
371 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 ...
Daniel R. Collins's user avatar
7 votes
6 answers
2k 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 ...
FoiledIt24's user avatar
  • 1,281
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 + \...
Improve's user avatar
  • 1,881
4 votes
7 answers
349 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}...
Improve's user avatar
  • 1,881
25 votes
11 answers
6k 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
9 votes
2 answers
399 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 ...
Ferenc Beleznay's user avatar
11 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 ...
Chris Cunningham's user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
626 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,...
Consider Non-Trivial Cases's user avatar
14 votes
2 answers
2k 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 ...
Ma Joad's user avatar
  • 1,673
1 vote
1 answer
240 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\...
schremmer's user avatar
  • 864
4 votes
3 answers
440 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 ...
Michael Bächtold's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
308 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), ...
Behnam Esmayli's user avatar
32 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 ...
Nick C's user avatar
  • 9,639
11 votes
3 answers
640 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 that the notation means "$L$ is the limit of $f(x)$ as $x$ approaches $c$". It ...
Ari's user avatar
  • 379
6 votes
1 answer
197 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 ...
blue's user avatar
  • 161
6 votes
3 answers
277 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 ...
EJ Mak's user avatar
  • 329
27 votes
6 answers
11k 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 ...
Nahmid's user avatar
  • 403
2 votes
2 answers
254 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 ...
ELM's user avatar
  • 352
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 ...
Jorssen's user avatar
  • 569
7 votes
4 answers
444 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 ...
frombilas's user avatar
12 votes
5 answers
2k 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
45 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 ...
Nick C's user avatar
  • 9,639
3 votes
1 answer
173 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 ...
Mike Pierce's user avatar
  • 4,845
5 votes
1 answer
305 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 ...
Tommi's user avatar
  • 7,202
11 votes
4 answers
4k 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 ...
kcrisman's user avatar
  • 5,976
11 votes
3 answers
530 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 ...
Taladris's user avatar
  • 1,491