Questions tagged [terminology]

How words are used in mathematics or mathematics education

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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 ...
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6answers
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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 ...
29
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11answers
4k views

Are the words "easy," "basic," "clearly," "obviously," etc., ever helpful?

This is a very basic fact from... It then clearly follows that... Obviously, we have... The proof is trivial... I could add plenty of other phrases to this list that mathematicians are prone to use ...
23
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5answers
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What is the proper verb for "doing" an integral?

It's time to write exams, and when writing in committee we often discover differences in usage between various instructors. Here's an example I noticed today. What is the proper verb to use in a ...
22
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16answers
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Examples of Mathematical Slang

Unless you have taught highschool algebra in Iran, you could not make sense of the phrase: Elephant and Teacup Identity! This is what teachers use to refer to the following identities: $ (a+b)(a^2-...
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9answers
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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 ...
20
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12answers
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What could be good non-mathematical analogies to explain the difference between the words theorem, proposition, lemma and corollaries?

What could be good non-mathematical analogy/analogies to explain the difference among the words - theorem, proposition, lemma and corollaries to high school students? I am looking for analogies that ...
19
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3answers
808 views

Difference in meaning of 'algebra'

The other day, in a conversation with colleagues, I realised that the word 'algebra' means different things to us. To me, it brings to mind the study of algebraic structures: vector spaces, groups, ...
18
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3answers
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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 $...
17
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4answers
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 ...
17
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1answer
885 views

Where does the word "roots" come from when talking about zeros

We often use the word roots when referring to the solutions of an equation. For instance, when we have a polynomial $P(x)$, we call its zeros the roots of $P(x)$. For some polynomials we can relate ...
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3answers
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"Proof" meaning in maths and society

When we ask students to prove a particular result in a math class, students often reply with examples. For example, if I state: if a number is even its square will be even, and ask the students to ...
16
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8answers
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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 ...
14
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7answers
11k views

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 ...
14
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5answers
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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 $...
13
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11answers
6k views

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 ...
13
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5answers
620 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 ...
12
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7answers
1k views

The word "and" rather than "or"

I asked my students the following question. Q: Express $\cos(\pi+x)$ in terms of $\sin$ and $\cos$. A: $-\cos(x)$. Students: Yeah, but where is the $\sin$ part? If I got this in an exam then I'd ...
12
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3answers
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Mathematical education slang

Amir Asghari recently asked a question about mathematical slang. He was "looking for "non-mathematical" terms or phrases that are used to refer to mathematical objects (of any kind) mainly for ...
11
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2answers
283 views

Does "factor" mean simply the multiplication (of any functions, numbers etc)

I am sorry I am not directed with the education of math. But granted, let me ask the above question. In my language (actually Japanese), the words corresponding with the factor and divisor, seem to ...
11
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3answers
461 views

Common phrases having different meaning

When talking with students it frequently happens that they misunderstand what you meant. The common example is the amount of rigor that one would consider "a proof", but there are other things, like ...
11
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2answers
182 views

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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10answers
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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 ...
10
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2answers
237 views

Using terminology for the different concepts of rational number

In elementary maths education literature, they distinguish multiple concepts that rational numbers are used to represent: fractions, quotients, ratios, rates, and possibly more. These words seem to be ...
10
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2answers
341 views

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. ...
10
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2answers
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What is the difference between "numeracy" and "number sense"?

Is there a difference between numeracy and number sense, or are they synonymous? In my language they are often both translated to the same word (tallforståelse). I'm thinking that perhaps numeracy ...
10
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2answers
326 views

Term and reference for the problem of students “overassociating” concepts with each other

I am writing a paper directed at a physics-education journal and I want to briefly refer to the phenomenon of students “overassociating” (in lack of a better term) mathematical concepts with each ...
10
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1answer
164 views

Is there a base-independent term for numbers written out with decimal/binary points?

How can I refer to a number written out in its decimal expansion (e.g., 1.25) or binary expansion (e.g., 1.01) to distinguish it from a number expressed as a fraction? I am teaching students to use ...
9
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5answers
2k views

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 ...
9
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3answers
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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 ...
9
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4answers
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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 ...
9
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3answers
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Standard word for a formula that is always true

If it is known from context that variables $x$ and $y$ represent integers, an open Boolean formula such as $x \ge y \Rightarrow x+1 > y$ evaluates to true regardless of the value assigned to ...
9
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1answer
260 views

When did the term and taught technique 'cross multiplication' enter into common use?

The title says it all, I suppose. I'm interested to know when/where the term/technique cross multiply came into use. Sources would be nice. In case it's unfamiliar to anyone, or in case the usage of ...
9
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1answer
303 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 ...
8
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1answer
714 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)...
8
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4answers
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Correct pronunciation of 'xth' (and workarounds for those who find it a tongue-twister)

This is to some extent a cross-posting from English Language & Usage. How do you pronounce “xth”? I am asking a slightly different question -- but only slightly. I was attempting to offer ways ...
8
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2answers
154 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 ...
8
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1answer
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What is the term for the marks used to show congruence in geometric figures?

When looking at a given picture to be used in a geometric proof, often times single, double, or triple "slashes" mark off equal line segments or arcs. What is the correct term for these? I've seen ...
8
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3answers
546 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 ...
7
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5answers
808 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 ...
7
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8answers
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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 $y=mx+y_0$,...
7
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4answers
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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 ...
7
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3answers
754 views

A good antonym for reducing/simplifying equivalent fractions

I am looking for a good antonym for reducing/simplifying equivalent fractions: 'reduce' and 'simplify' both make sense to me when dividing, but I'm struggling to name what it is we do when we multiply ...
7
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1answer
196 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 ...
7
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2answers
192 views

Alternative terms for 'mathematical understanding'

When I talk to other research mathematicians, there is pretty uniform agreement that we want our (university) students to understand the maths we teach them rather than just memorise processes. As far ...
6
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3answers
302 views

Terminology: degree of coefficient?

It's clear that a polynomial has a "degree". For instance our $$x^2 + 2x + 3$$ is a of degree two. Can we apply the "degree" terminology to the coefficients? Here we have the coefficient tuple $[1\ 2\...
6
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3answers
273 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 ...
6
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2answers
275 views

Name to use for codomain/range/target

There are many questions about how best to teach functions, for example why don't we teach codomains in HS and should we teach them at all. On Math.SX there are questions about the "right" name for ...
6
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1answer
251 views

What is a less anglo-centric collection of persons than Andy, Beth, Carl, Debby and Earl?

These five imagined persons have accompanied me for some time. We've had a bunch of laughs and a few tears. I love them dearly. That said, I'd like to retire them in favor of a more culturally diverse ...
5
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4answers
769 views

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 ...