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76 votes
11 answers
12k views

Whence the "everything is linear" phenomenon, and what can we do about it?

$$ \color{red}{(a+b)^2 = a^2+b^2}$$ $$ \color{red}{\sqrt{x^4+y^4} = x^2+y^2} $$ $$ \color{red}{e^{t^2+C} = e^{t^2}+e^C}$$ I've observed this phenomenon -- wherein, implicitly, students say, "...
Brendan W. Sullivan's user avatar
81 votes
6 answers
8k 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}=...
user avatar
88 votes
13 answers
11k views

How to assign homework when answers are freely available or attainable online?

I find that making homework meaningful is becoming increasingly challenging. Let us suppose that I am planning for next semester's first-semester or second-semester calculus course at my university. ...
davidlowryduda's user avatar
61 votes
4 answers
6k views

Is it worth grading calculus homework?

I am a young math educator. I've TAed four semesters of calculus for various instructors. Some instructors have required me to grade selected problems in homework sets. Another required me simply to ...
abnry's user avatar
  • 852
43 votes
28 answers
12k views

Good, simple examples of induction?

Many examples of induction are silly, in that there are more natural methods available. Could you please post examples of induction, where it is required, and which are simple enough as examples in a ...
vonbrand's user avatar
  • 12.3k
29 votes
15 answers
5k views

How do I teach algebra?

I find that soon I'll be working with high school students that are struggling with math. In particular, we'll be talking a lot about algebra and some basic trigonometry. The latter I have experience ...
user avatar
13 votes
3 answers
1k views

In what curricula are "rectangles" defined so as to exclude squares?

Most contemporary curricula define the word "rectangle" inclusively, so that all squares are automatically rectangles. Are there curricula in which this convention is not followed? That is,...
BCLC's user avatar
  • 574
27 votes
9 answers
3k views

Teaching students to find and correct their own errors

Many students have a fairly good grasp of the topics they are learning but fall down because they miss fatal errors in their work. Some don't check for errors at all, while many simply can't find them....
DavidButlerUofA's user avatar
20 votes
3 answers
1k views

Good problems that uncover difficult points in a theory

There is a great quote of Yitz Herstein: The value of a problem is not so much coming up with the answer as in the ideas and attempted ideas it forces on the would-be solver." A number of such ...
Jon Bannon's user avatar
  • 6,173
19 votes
9 answers
4k views

Was there an SMSG (New Math) "Algebra 2" text?

This question has been kicking around in the back of my head for a couple of years, but the impetus to post it now came from reading the related question at When did the American school system's ...
mweiss's user avatar
  • 17.4k
19 votes
1 answer
2k views

How much time to spend on a single question?

When I was self-studying as an undergraduate, I would spend up to two weeks working on a single problem or trying to understand a proof in Rudin's Principles of Mathematical Analysis. I realize now ...
Student's user avatar
  • 293
52 votes
15 answers
13k views

How can we help students learn how to read their textbook?

In most secondary and early undergraduate courses, students purchase expensive and carefully-written textbooks. These textbooks contain, roughly, three things: Exercises and Answers Reference ...
Chris Cunningham's user avatar
45 votes
18 answers
3k views

How to teach logical implication?

One of the challenges of undergraduate teaching is logical implication. The case by case definition, in particular, is quite disturbing for most students, that have trouble accepting "false implies ...
Benoît Kloeckner's user avatar
33 votes
14 answers
2k views

Revisiting topics from previous courses [closed]

I teach calculus to students who have almost all taken calculus before. (Primarily first-year college students who took calculus in high school but didn't perform well enough to skip the course.) ...
Henry Towsner's user avatar
26 votes
9 answers
2k views

How can mathematics educators encourage innovation and creativity?

Almost by definition, innovation requires that things be done differently than established custom has it, and comes from the young more often than from the old. In a field as old and established as ...
Confutus's user avatar
  • 1,765
19 votes
12 answers
2k views

Mathematical problems for preschoolers

What are some mathematical problems that are feasible for preschool children to stimulate their intellectual development? There are multiple natural laws that are not apparent to them, for example: ...
dtldarek's user avatar
  • 8,947
2 votes
5 answers
447 views

How can I demonstrate triangulations of surfaces with real hands-on objects?

For a math circle activity on Euler Characteristic, I'd like the students to be able to triangulate some surfaces and count the number of vertices, edges, and faces of the result. There are a lot of ...
Chris Cunningham's user avatar
87 votes
21 answers
26k views

Why are induction proofs so challenging for students?

This forum already has many good, simple examples of induction proofs, a great resource. As I am soon to teach induction for the $n^\textrm{th}$ time—this time to some perhaps under-prepared ...
Joseph O'Rourke's user avatar
74 votes
17 answers
10k views

How shall we teach math online?

Many universities, including mine, are now requiring we teach our courses online because corona. How shall we do this? Let’s brainstorm here. Some challenges: My school provides limited online ...
Stephen Herschkorn's user avatar
49 votes
14 answers
6k views

Should we avoid indefinite integrals?

I am very uncomfortable with indefinite integrals, as I have a hard time giving them a precise sense that matches the way they are written and the usual meaning of other symbols. For example, when ...
Benoît Kloeckner's user avatar
38 votes
26 answers
3k views

What are some great books for exploring mathematics? (not kids' books and not textbooks)

People often think of math as facts and procedure - dry stuff. But it is so much more, even at basic levels. What books about mathematics have you been inspired by? There are some real treasures out ...
Sue VanHattum's user avatar
  • 20.3k
32 votes
4 answers
4k views

Books about elementary mathematics written like a good undergraduate textbook

I've never seen any really good expositions of elementary mathematics (middle school or earlier). A good college-level textbook, written for people with an interest in mathematics, reads like a novel ...
Jack M's user avatar
  • 1,347
21 votes
5 answers
785 views

How students write their work, and learning outcomes

While teaching students mathematics, I have noticed that some seem sloppy in the way that they write down their work. For example, a student is given a question: What is the area of the rectangle? <...
ctrl-alt-delor's user avatar
15 votes
4 answers
1k views

When should I say "nothing is as it seems"?

"Intuition" is the best friend and worse enemy of mathematicians! Sometimes using intuitive arguments could be very helpful to understand the nature of a phenomenon. Many of the deepest true ...
user avatar
13 votes
7 answers
3k views

How can you be perfect at maths (highschool)?

I'm in my last year of highschool. And I'm aiming for a perfect grade in maths. The problem is that this year is the hardest year of maths I have ever faced in my entire life. Especially derivation ...
Vincent's user avatar
  • 139
86 votes
19 answers
30k views

What is a good handwriting font for mathematics?

My students frequently mix up my $t$'s with my $+$'s and my $y$'s with my $4$'s. What is a good handwriting font for distinguishing these and other easily confused symbols?
Brian Rushton's user avatar
65 votes
14 answers
3k views

Encouraging class participation

I teach calculus to college students, and find it very difficult to get them to speak up in class when I ask questions, or when I'm trying to get a pulse for how much they understand. I think ...
Jared's user avatar
  • 2,223
58 votes
24 answers
72k views

Optimization problems that today's students might actually encounter?

Our students are not fencing in farm fields, cutting wires and folding them, or designing windows, so they are often uninspired by the optimization problems we give them. They seem like something that ...
Chris Cunningham's user avatar
41 votes
4 answers
5k views

Rings before groups in abstract algebra?

The default approach to teaching abstract algebra seems to be groups first, then rings. However, occasionally a textbook pops up (e.g. Childs' A Concrete Introduction to Higher Algebra, Hodge et al's ...
J W's user avatar
  • 4,653
36 votes
24 answers
6k views

Imbuing a six year old with a sense of mathematical wonder

My six year old started school a few months back and he's loving it. This first year is more about social skills than anything academic and I like that approach. But we're spending some time at home ...
Mathdad's user avatar
  • 580
32 votes
7 answers
47k views

Software to create video tutorial of mathematics topics

I came across many video tutorials on youtube regarding mathematics. I found this video amazingly simple to understand for students. I want to know about the tool/software used for it or similar ...
user's user avatar
  • 331
29 votes
17 answers
7k views

Examples of Innumeracy

I read Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos and would like to share more up-to-date and relevant examples of innumeracy to motivate my grade 8, 9 & 10 students. Are there any websites, blogs, books, ...
David Ebert's user avatar
  • 3,905
26 votes
4 answers
2k views

Lesson plan to self-teach real analysis to student with comp-sci background

For my background, I'm a software engineer currently studying for his master's degree in information security. But when that's all done, I plan on going back to mathematics to keep me busy. But with ...
avgvstvs's user avatar
  • 403
22 votes
4 answers
1k views

How can I choose a free calculus textbook?

As I have been recently informed, it is a good idea to consider free calculus textbooks for college and university courses. However, this feels risky to me, because: I don't know anyone who is using ...
Chris Cunningham's user avatar
21 votes
2 answers
4k views

Example "bad proofs"?

As a sidetrack in this question it came up that it is important to have students read texts (in particular proofs) critically. As examples it is nice to have correct proofs at hand (presumably in the ...
vonbrand's user avatar
  • 12.3k
17 votes
4 answers
2k views

Teaching a very enthusiastic and bright 5 year old

I was asked to give extra lessons to a 5 year old boy who loves math (he says he likes 3 sports: football, swimming and math). However, I have never taught at this age and I am unfamiliar with the ...
Lucas Virgili's user avatar
13 votes
4 answers
939 views

Wiggins' question #12

There's an interesting read: Conceptual Understanding in Mathematics by Grant Wiggins. In that text the author proposes "a test for conceptual understanding" which should be given "to 10th, 11th, and ...
dtldarek's user avatar
  • 8,947
13 votes
6 answers
4k views

Why do some students struggle so much with fractions?

I read on multiple web pages something that implies that that some students really struggle with fractions but I could never find a detailed explanation of why. This question is different from Are ...
Timothy's user avatar
  • 499
12 votes
1 answer
437 views

Where can I find primary sources from the New Math movement in the 60s?

I'm interested in learning about the New Math movement from a historical perspective. I've located some secondary sources about the topic, mainly parodies, highly critical restrospective articles, or ...
Alexander Gruber's user avatar
10 votes
3 answers
4k views

Learning counting and addition: fingers or in their head?

My kids Cindy (5 1/2, in Kindergarden) and Jamie (4, in pre-K) are taking some math enrichment classes. I have been telling and teaching them to count items and do single-digit arithmetic in their ...
rbp's user avatar
  • 363
87 votes
15 answers
16k views

Should I design my exams to have time-pressure or not?

Is it better to design an exam with fewer questions and relaxed timing or with more questions and a resulting time-pressure? One the one hand, it seems that students who really know the stuff will ...
JDH's user avatar
  • 4,106
57 votes
15 answers
17k views

Student: Why not use a calculator?

The kid I am teaching math (subtraction for large numbers right now) just said this is all too easily done by a calculator, why don't we use it? Well, I did tell him that you can only learn more ...
Rijul Gupta's user avatar
  • 1,165
51 votes
3 answers
11k views

How do blind people learn mathematics?

I am interested in how blind people learn mathematics at any level, but particularly before college. Math is often taught using a lot of visualization; how does this work with blind people? My ...
Peter Flom's user avatar
46 votes
16 answers
32k views

How is calculus helpful for biology majors?

It's common for majors in biology to take calculus courses, and many calculus textbooks (and calculus professors) try to cater to these students by including applications to biology. My question is, ...
Jim Belk's user avatar
  • 8,269
46 votes
18 answers
12k views

How to explain the flipping of division by a fraction?

This question is inspired by @DavidButlerUofA's discussion of "$\div \frac{2}{3}$ as $\times \frac{3}{2}$" in "Are fractions hard because they are like algebra?" Q. How can one best convey to ...
Joseph O'Rourke's user avatar
41 votes
5 answers
3k views

Effects of early study of advanced books

Context: There was recently a question on Math.SE: Inferior to Other Younger and Brighter Kids which starts as follows: I'm a high school student (Junior/Grade 11) and I'm currently studying ...
dtldarek's user avatar
  • 8,947
39 votes
11 answers
3k 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 ...
Anschewski's user avatar
  • 4,811
37 votes
5 answers
6k views

What fraction of the population is incapable of learning algebra?

In the comment thread of this academia.SE question, the following generated some strong reactions: My very different (community-college) perspective is that the math discipline will end up as a ...
user avatar
36 votes
3 answers
4k views

How to cure students from the idea that root and squaring are identity operators?

I tutor high school algebra and I’ve noticed that a lot of my students don’t seem to understand what they’re doing when they “convert” between different ways of writing numbers involving perfect ...
Swiftheart's user avatar
32 votes
20 answers
6k views

How to explain that a negative number multiplied by a negative number is a positive number, and that $-(-x)=x$?

Actually, there is no algebraic problem to show that $-(-x) = x$. This proof can be build upon the concept of the addition of the opposite like this: $- x + x = - x + [- ( - x) ]$, and thus by ...
Abdallah Abusharekh's user avatar

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