# Questions tagged [notation]

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

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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
115 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?
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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, ...
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### 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 ...
293 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 ...
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### 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.
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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### 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 $C(f,g) = f∘g$ ...
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### 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,...
### 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 ...
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 $lim_{x\... 4 votes 3 answers 434 views ### Students writing$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 293 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), ... 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 ... 11 votes 3 answers 583 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 ... 6 votes 1 answer 192 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 ... 6 votes 3 answers 274 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 ... 27 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 ... 2 votes 2 answers 248 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 ... 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 ... 7 votes 4 answers 429 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 ... 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 ... 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 ... 3 votes 1 answer 171 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 ... 5 votes 1 answer 295 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 ... 11 votes 4 answers 3k 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 ... 11 votes 3 answers 522 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 ... 8 votes 5 answers 1k 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 ... -1 votes 1 answer 214 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 ... 11 votes 4 answers 1k 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 ... 