Questions tagged [terminology]

How words are used in mathematics or mathematics education

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What term describes the relationship between tenth, hundredth, thousandth and the number ten?

What term describes the relationship between tenth, hundredth, thousandth, et cetera (1/10, 1/100, 1/1000, ...) and the number ten? (Despite what some may say, I don't accept that "decimal" ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Why do so many children's book confuse discs with circles? [duplicate]

The difference between a disc (disk) and a circle is crystal clear to me: However, in many children's books, a disc is usually called a circle: Why do many children's book confuse discs with circles?...
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14 votes
5 answers
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Use of language: "perfect square". is this useful or a hindrance? [closed]

I have recently been noticing the tendency to use the term "perfect square" when "square number" is really what is meant. Usually I have seen it at elementary level: introductory ...
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4 votes
1 answer
102 views

Are ‘constant difference’ and ‘common difference’ synonymous?

I’ve seen at least two phrases to describe a fixed difference between two numbers, i.e., “constant difference” and “common difference.” For example, if Sibling A is 10 years older than Sibling B today,...
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2 answers
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Is there a difference between 'subtract' and 'subtract by'?

A basic terminology question for a foreign speaker. Please correct me if wrong. (Let's ignore the commutative property of + and * here) ...
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-4 votes
1 answer
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Can you talk about (the rest of the) field axioms when the operations are not closed? [closed]

Note: Updated based on this. In my course, my instructor posed the following exercise: Let $S$ be the subset of $\mathbb R^n$, $S=\{(a_1,a_2,a_3...a_n) | a_2 = \pm a_1, a_3=...=a_n=0 \}$. Define ...
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5 votes
2 answers
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Is there an equivalent for "tiervenner" in English or other languages?

In Norway a widely used concept is that of "tiervenner", "ten friends" (my translation to Finnish is "kymppikaverit"). This simply means numbers (implicitly positive ...
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5 votes
4 answers
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Composite fraction?

What do you call a fraction that has one fraction in the numerator and also one in the denominator? I mean (a/b)/(c/d). The word by word translation from my native language would be: composite ...
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1 answer
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Is there an **official** name for the following "digit reduction" operation? [closed]

In one of my programs I have a function I call reduce(n) which associates to n the recursive sum of ...
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3 votes
3 answers
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What is the English word for the French "repère"?

I'm preparing a holiday class in computer graphics. The class will be held in English. I'm a French speaker and I'm fighting with some words which have lots of meanings to find the right one in the ...
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-2 votes
3 answers
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A linear equation -- my approach

Here is an example of a lesson I did on linear equations where my objective was to show that they are equations of first degree. The reason I do it this way is because I tend to find that students ...
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23 votes
9 answers
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Why do we introduce the notion that triangles are "congruent" instead of just saying that they are "the same" or "equal"?

The assumed age of the students is 10-15 years old. What is the danger in saying that two triangles are "the same" or "equal" instead of saying that they are congruent? It seems to ...
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13 votes
11 answers
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What can (and should) an educator do about ambiguous terms like "triangle", "square", etc?

The imagined students are in elementary school, say around 9-13 years old. I want to use rather precise terminology when talking to my students. However, it seems like we typically use the same ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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simple statistics (binomial) terminology

Say I have the problem: I roll a die three times and I am interested in the probability of ending up with two 1's. My impression is that a single roll is called a trial. What is the full 3-roll action ...
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Is "conjugate of a binomial" a standard terminology?

In several online high school teaching resources (I do not want to single out any) I see that $a-b$ is referred to as the conjugate of $a+b$ with no restriction on $a$ and $b$. I can understand that $...
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5 votes
2 answers
227 views

Term for candidates for inflection points

The critical points of a function $f(x)$ are candidates for local extrema, i.e., if a function changes from increasing to decreasing, or vice versa, it must happen at a critical point. Is there an ...
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Definition of Trapezoid

From one textbook we use in our High School - Transcription: A trapezoid is a quadrilateral with exactly one pair of parallel sides. The parallel sides are called bases of the trapezoid. And from ...
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10 votes
2 answers
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Weekly quizzes as an alternative for midterms? What is this called?

I have seen (by some of my former instructors) the following strategy applied as an alternative to traditional "midterms and final" assessment in a math course: Students take a quiz weekly. ...
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9 votes
5 answers
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Is there a name for paths that follow gridlines?

I'm writing up an activity where students are looking at pathlengths that follow along gridlines. Is there a word or phrase that is commonly used to describe those paths, but doesn't include ...
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14 votes
7 answers
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Why don’t American school textbooks recognize negative numbers as whole numbers?

Looking up for definition for whole numbers on Google yields a result which mentions: The whole numbers are also called the positive integers (or the nonnegative integers, if zero is included). I ...
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17 votes
4 answers
3k views

Does this property of subtraction and division have a name?

Addition and multiplication are commutative. Denoting $\circ$ as either such operation, we have $$x \circ y = z \Leftrightarrow y \circ x = z.$$ Subtraction and division have a similar property, where ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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In single variable calculus, do you distinguish between critical and singular points?

In some texts, a critical point is when the derivative exists and is zero, and a singular point is when the derivative does not exist. So I suppose, at $x=0$, $|x|$ would have a singular point while $...
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1 vote
1 answer
219 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\...
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11 votes
2 answers
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Confusing verbal descriptions of function transformations

While teaching Function Transformations, I found the verbal descriptions of stretch and squeeze really confusing. So for $y = f(x)$, $y = 2f(x)$ is said to stretch $f(x)$ vertically by a factor of $...
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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 ...
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9 votes
1 answer
336 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 ...
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3 votes
3 answers
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The term "unique" for functions and operations

This is long so... TLDR: Proposing the math community steer away from the misleading term unique, with respect to functions and algebraic operations. Instead, use unambiguous. Why not? Analysis below....
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16 votes
8 answers
4k views

Should high school teachers say “real numbers” before teaching complex numbers?

Before complex numbers are introduced in senior high school courses, should we emphasise that solutions (e.g. to quadratic equations) are real solutions? If we do, then when non-real numbers finally ...
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3 votes
3 answers
669 views

What is the name of the form of the line equation $y = m(x-x0)+y0$

I have been looking everywhere for the name of this form of equation of a line $y=m(x-x_0)+y_0$. It's not quite point-slope. It's the same form you would write in the linear approximation of a ...
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6 votes
3 answers
294 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 ...
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8 votes
1 answer
763 views

An alternative to "two column" geometry proofs

I'm a high school teacher in New York State (US), starting in on my first year of teaching Geometry. One of the things that really intrigues me is that the Regents exam (the state-mandated final exam)...
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0 votes
6 answers
5k views

Is there a more telling name for "Calculus 2"?

I see a lot of places where "Calculus 1" is referred to as "Introduction to Calculus", or "Single-variable Calculus." "Calculus 3" is referred to as "Multiple-variable calculus." Is there an ...
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1 vote
2 answers
418 views

Interpretation of how to define "bigger" and "smaller" real numbers

This is a variant on the question small real numbers. I have a disagreement with someone about the meaning of "bigger" real numbers. Say we have the real number $-1.$ Is $0$ "bigger" or "smaller" ...
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2 votes
1 answer
336 views

What are "PreK‐12th‐grade students"?

I am reading the paper Effects of game‐based learning on students' mathematics achievement: A meta‐analysis and can't find a definition for the term "PreK‐12th‐grade students". While I know that "K-...
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7 votes
1 answer
197 views

Are there textbooks that cover most etymological aspects of mathematics?

In most of the science textbooks I read, I observed that most of them contain the terms, definitions and etymology too. But nowadays, the mathematics textbooks are becoming more formal and contain ...
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3 votes
3 answers
107 views

How to verbalize the correct statement of mixed units?

I want help phrasing the instructions in a math question. The issue is the correct way to express mixed units. For example, if an answer is “25 inches,” I don’t want to accept “25 inches” or “1 foot ...
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10 votes
10 answers
2k views

Vocabulary for giving just numbers, not a full answer

I am a math teacher from China, teaching a course in English. Some students of mine are really good at finding answers for math problems designed in a quiz, however they are unable to write down ...
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  • 377
4 votes
1 answer
216 views

The terminology for an excluded solution

I am not a native math teacher. I have a question related to a terminology when solving an algebraic equation. Assume that we are solving some complicated equation like $x^{3}-\sqrt{1-x^{2}}-\frac{1}{...
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8 votes
3 answers
630 views

"Amplitude" of Tan and Cot functions

The amplitude of a sinusoid is the distance from its axis to a high point or a low point. When we read this, it follows that Tan and Cot don't have an amplitude. Nor do SEC or CSC. Now, I'm in an ...
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8 votes
2 answers
156 views

Math Lessons with Two Parts and a Combination

This is fairly open ended, so I understand if people consider this to be off-topic. I'm interested in creating math lessons where two groups each learn how to use a different simple math skill, and ...
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7 votes
5 answers
901 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 ...
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9 votes
4 answers
4k views

Is the constant term a coefficient?

I'm a baby boomer who was taught that the constant term of a polynomial is a coefficient, being the constant factor for the x^0 term. That's not what's taught today. Current text books are vague on ...
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7 votes
8 answers
3k views

What is an intercept?

I have always taught my students that the $y$-intercept of a line is the $y$-coordinate of the point of intersection of a line with the $y$-axis, that is, for the line given by the equation $y=mx+y_0$,...
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5 votes
4 answers
239 views

What is the value in creating distinguishing terminology between the $x$, $y$, and $(x, y)$ values of a possible point of extremum?

I've been out of a math program for about four years now. My wife is starting a CS degree, and finished her first calculus course last semester. I tutored calculus throughout my entire undergrad, ...
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0 votes
0 answers
126 views

What is the best term for "probability measure" in an undergrad introduction to probability course?

The function $P$ that takes an event $A$ as input and returns the probability $P(A)$ as output is called a "probability measure" when we are developing probability using measure theory. I have also ...
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7 votes
4 answers
413 views

Should I describe the function $x \mapsto f(x_0) + f'(x_0)(x - x_0)$ as "linear" in a freshman calculus class?

One of the most important ideas of calculus is $$ f(x) \approx f(x_0) + f'(x_0)(x - x_0). $$ The approximation is good when $x$ is close to $x_0$. This approximation is very useful because the ...
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5 votes
2 answers
290 views

How to explain NP-hardness and NP-completeness to students

Computer science is becoming more and more important for mathematicians nowadays. Terms like big data, algorithm, artificial intelligence and others are frequently on the news. Many mathematical ...
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5 votes
2 answers
416 views

How to Teach Middle School Students to Read Square Roots?

This exact quote from my standard American Algebra 1 textbook states when first introducing rational square roots: $\sqrt{49} = 7$ is read "The positive square root of $49$ equals $7$." $-...
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  • 53
-2 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
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  • 526
14 votes
5 answers
710 views

What is a recommend way to describe a negative number with large absolute value?

Sometimes when we discuss limits verbally, we may say that a variable $x$ being "very small" (assuming that $x$ is a real number). But this could mean any one of the following: The number $x$ is a ...
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