Questions tagged [notation]

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

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11
votes
1answer
7k views

When and Why are different division symbols taught?

There are 4 division symbols that I have learned/taught. Below is 18 divided by 3, shown with 4 different symbols. This question was sparked by the comments on my answer to the question on examples ...
1
vote
1answer
97 views

Moving lines in schematic diagrams

I am self-teaching myself precalculus.My biggest sticking point is to move lines within a diagram, especially, functions in the coordinated plane. For instance, doing horizontal and vertical shifts of ...
13
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4answers
939 views

As a TA, how to reduce imprecise notations/statements in students' exams

I'm not a course instructor, just a TA of the first quarter calculus course who lead discussion sections and grade exams. When grading the midterm, I found large number of students showed some ...
23
votes
7answers
4k views

Repeated addition: standard notation?

My daughter showed me the picture below, which came from 9GAG. It shows a question on an exam asking the student to "use the repeated addition strategy to solve: 5 x 3." The student answered "5+5+5" ...
13
votes
4answers
482 views

Using $dx$ for $h$ in the definition of derivative

Is it mathematically correct to write $$f'(x)=\lim_{dx\to0}\frac{f(x+dx)-f(x)}{dx},$$ rather than $$f'(x)=\lim_{h\to0}\frac{f(x+h)-f(x)}{h}?$$ If not, what is the difference? If so, why isn't this ...
12
votes
2answers
233 views

How to teach brackets?

I was taught in a school that one has to use different brackets in expressions like $\{[(3+4)\cdot 4]^4\}^{1/2}$ to denote the order which subexpression is evaluated first. But can this be recommended ...
7
votes
3answers
238 views

What symbol is appropriate to represent a sum modulo N? [closed]

I am writing a blog post about cryptography and I need to show some examples that involve sums modulo N. I would like (if possible) to use a different "plus" symbol for these sums. The kind of ...
8
votes
2answers
228 views

Is there a good notation for “ratio” comparable to the use of $\Delta$ for “difference”?

It is standard to use the symbol $\Delta$ to indicate a change in a quantity between two points on a curve, two rows on a table, and so forth. For linear functions, we write slope = $\Delta y / \...
71
votes
6answers
6k views

Issues with “equals”, where does this come from and how do I combat it?

An issue I see with students a lot is abuse of the equals sign. For example, one problem asked "what is the degree of the polynomial: $\text{polynomial}$?", and I got answers like "$\text{polynomial}=...
5
votes
5answers
295 views

Notation for an element in a polynomial ring

Let $F$ be a field. What is the best notation (in an undergraduate or graduate abstract algebra class) for a generic element of the univariate polynomial ring $F[x]$? The most common notation seems ...
11
votes
1answer
586 views

Language to Distinguish Between Variables and Arbitrary Constants

Today in second semester calculus, I found myself stumbling a bit to provide a natural-sounding explanation for all the letters involved in the expression $$ \lim_{t \rightarrow \infty} \int_1^t \frac{...
9
votes
2answers
4k views

Notation of points with coordinates

At least in Germany, nearly all teachers and textbooks use the notation $$P(x,y)$$ for the point $P$ with coordinates $x$ and $y$. My own math professors at university always cried about this, as the ...
14
votes
6answers
4k views

Explaining the symbols in definite and indefinite integrals

I teach the definite integral before the indefinite for a few reasons, one of which is that I want students to recognize that the definite integral means area (not anti-derivative). If we do ...
9
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6answers
413 views

Helping high school students remember inequalities and division

Background I sometimes tutor high school students and I have come across various problem types that are best represented by the following two problems. They are unable to keep track of the correct ...
35
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1answer
2k views

Metonymy in mathematics

Metonymy is a figure of speech where a word or another expression is used to mean something other than its literal meaning. This phenomenon is not restricted to the "usual human languages" (such as ...
7
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1answer
130 views

Resource about notation for students

Others have already here pointed out that students can struggle with notation in mathematics. I can often think that the lack of proper notation gets in the way of solving a problem correctly. ...
10
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2answers
593 views

Is this example of Leibniz notation sloppy?

In helping a family member who is studying calculus, I was asked about the meaning of the following, which is straight out of a calculus text book (Varberg and Purcell) $v'(t) = \frac{{\rm d}\,v}{{\...
4
votes
1answer
157 views

On using different notations for the same objects

Historically, in set theory we use two different notations to refer set theoretically same objects $\aleph_{\alpha}$ and $\omega_{\alpha}$. The folklore justification of this dual notation is that we ...
29
votes
6answers
1k views

What is the rationale for the absent (+) in mixed fractions?

Why are students taught to represent one and a half as $1 \frac{1}{2}$ rather than $1 + \frac{1}{2}$? This mode of expression seems standard at least throughout North America. I believe that it is bad ...
2
votes
1answer
302 views

Is there a conventional function notation that takes a polynomial and order and yields the coefficient corresponding to the order?

I am writing a book and for the sake of simplicity I want to do something as follows. Coef((-3x^2 +5x -1)(x^2 +1), 2) = -3 -1 = -4 where the first argument ...
14
votes
6answers
580 views

Is using different notations in one course a good idea?

From aesthetical point of view, using two symbols for the same concept during the same course is obviously a very bad idea. However, especially when I teach freshmen, I often deliberately mix ...
22
votes
5answers
1k views

Students using ambiguous notation

I've noticed that many of my calculus students (all college students) will write, e.g., $1/3x$ to mean $(1/3)x$. This is an inherently ambiguous notation which I'd like them to avoid. Is simply ...
19
votes
7answers
1k views

Notation Conflict between Teachers and Textbooks

In mathematics notation plays an important role in clarifying the subject. A bad notation could be confusing. Recently I use a logic textbook which has a very nice approach and content but an ...
3
votes
1answer
192 views

Better use “Integrate a function”/“Calculate the definite integral” or use terms like “primitive function”, “antiderivative”, “Aufleitung” (German)?

When one wants to let students calculate (Riemann) integrals in calculus, what is a good term to call this task? If you want to focus on what the main task is, you may call it "Calculate the definite ...
34
votes
10answers
2k views

Reasons for (not) distinguishing $f$ from $f(x)$

Formally, if $f$ is a function, $f(x)$ is a value. So for instance, $f$ can be continuous, but not $f(x)$. In teaching at school and university, notation is quite often mixed up, e.g. the function is ...
31
votes
10answers
2k views

Should students be asked to use more than one notation for the derivative in an introductory calculus class?

There are many, many ways of writing the derivative of a function $y=f(x)$: $$\frac{d}{dx}y, \frac{dy}{dx},\frac{d}{dx}f(x), \frac{df}{dx}, \dot y, D_x f,f',y',f'(x),f_x$$ and so on. Students often ...

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