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27 votes
3 answers
1k views

What do you do when you realize mid-lecture that your lesson plan is not working?

I had this happen today, and several times before. I had had difficulty preparing the material, because I knew my students strengths and it didn't seem suited to them. However, it seemed the right ...
Brian Rushton's user avatar
26 votes
13 answers
3k views

What is a good motivation/showcase for a student for the study of eigenvalues?

Courses about linear algebra make great demands on looking for eigenvalues and transforming matrices to diagonal matrices (or, at least, to Jordan normal form). This is somehow a technical, recipe-...
Markus Klein's user avatar
  • 9,448
26 votes
7 answers
4k views

A Non-Unique Factorization of Integers!

I'm going to introduce my students to the fundamental theorem of arithmetic (uniqueness of integer factorization to prime factors), and I don't want them to take the uniqueness for granted! To make my ...
Behzad's user avatar
  • 2,363
26 votes
14 answers
9k views

How to teach pure mathematics to a well-educated adult who did badly in maths at school

My partner is a PhD student in philosophy and has recently developed a keen interest in learning pure mathematics. I am doing my best to teach her (I'm a pure maths PhD student myself) and it is ...
user829347's user avatar
26 votes
7 answers
4k views

Why are we so careful in saying that dy/dx is not a fraction?

Calculus instructors are mostly very careful to explain that $\frac{\mathrm{d}y}{\mathrm{d}x}$ is not a fraction, and multiplying both sides of an equation by $\mathrm{d}x$ is nonsense, wrong, or evil....
Chris Cunningham's user avatar
26 votes
6 answers
1k views

How to present $\Bbb Z/n\Bbb Z$ to highschool level audience

I have the oportunity to talk to a highschool class about mathematics, the topic I got to present are the integers modulo $n$, ie, $\Bbb Z/n\Bbb Z$ , however I don't want to be very heavy and formal, ...
Ana Galois's user avatar
26 votes
4 answers
3k views

Common Core, threat or menace? Or maybe ok after all?

I have a background in math but no contact with secondary education or kids. I hear all sorts of stories ... horror stories mostly ... about the Common Core math curriculum in the USA. Then I hear ...
user4894's user avatar
  • 361
26 votes
8 answers
2k views

"We already passed that course!" How to overcome this?

I've heard the phrase "we passed that course already!" too many times when asking for e.g. the derivative of a simple rational function or a simple integral, getting blank stares, and digging deeper. ...
vonbrand's user avatar
  • 12.3k
26 votes
6 answers
2k views

What is the quantitative data on effectiveness of "modern" teaching methods?

What research has been done on how much and in what circumstances various non-lecture types of teching are effective with regards to student knowledge and performance? Meta/review studies preferred ...
Džuris's user avatar
  • 757
26 votes
6 answers
4k views

How do you go about writing your own lecture notes for a new course?

In advanced graduate courses, there are often no textbooks on the material being covered, and sometimes no good introductory material at all. Even when there are textbooks, many professors prefer to ...
Brian Rushton's user avatar
26 votes
8 answers
4k views

How can I convince someone to use a calculator and not worry about the mechanics too much?

I'm trying to help someone pass their final exam (analysis of functions) so they can graduate high school and move on to college. (Not a teacher, just another student, currently in high level math) ...
Bassinator's user avatar
26 votes
8 answers
2k views

How to write like a mathematician?

I learned to do math proofs in college. But recently I have begun studying more advanced math books and I've noticed some mathematicians frequently make assumptions that I don't. When I write proofs, ...
Stan Shunpike'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
26 votes
6 answers
1k views

Too much motivation?

This is something that I felt like was difficult for me in some classes, especially lower division differential equations and linear algebra classes. I know professors want to motivate certain topics ...
user avatar
26 votes
5 answers
2k views

Should we "program" calculus students, like the physicists seem to want us to?

If it is true that we first learn formalism...how to do things that we don't understand, should we regard teaching students mathematics as programming dumb machines with formal rules (to the greatest ...
Jon Bannon's user avatar
  • 6,173
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
26 votes
4 answers
7k views

How is teaching calculus in high school different from teaching calculus in college?

I've taught calculus in college for five years, and it's always interesting to see students coming in who already had calculus in high school. Many of them do very well, and don't even seem like they ...
Brian Rushton's user avatar
25 votes
10 answers
6k views

Pi or Tau? How should the circle constant be taught?

Tau ($\tau = 2 \pi$) has more merits in its application, but pi is the established standard in industry and education. Is the trade-off of teach-ability of circle concepts worth the subsequent ...
jpd527's user avatar
  • 519
25 votes
23 answers
5k views

How can I explain why we need proofs to someone who has no experience in mathematical thinking?

I know someone I really like, but sadly, that person has absolutely no experience in math or mathematical thinking above third grade mathematics (+, - are fine, but division already makes problems). ...
user15257's user avatar
  • 351
25 votes
10 answers
7k views

Why would you teach Calculus before teaching Real Analysis?

Let's assume our students are actual aspiring mathematicians. Why would we introduce our students to Calculus rather than Real Analysis? After all, "Calculus is a subset of Real Analysis". He will ...
ClassicEndingMusic's user avatar
25 votes
11 answers
6k views

Why do we still teach the determinant formula for cross product? And is it as bad as I think it is?

The cross product is an important vector operation in in any serious multivariable calculus course. In most textbooks that I'm aware of, right after the definition, we always introduce the ...
user avatar
25 votes
11 answers
3k views

Redundant zeros

How to convince a middle school student that $0.50=0.5=0.500=\cdots$? I used the fact that $0.50=\frac{5}{10}+\frac{0}{100}=\frac{5}{10}=0.5$ but that far from intuitive. Then I tried to explain ...
user5402's user avatar
  • 1,528
25 votes
14 answers
17k views

What can I do when advanced undergraduate and/or early graduate STEM students cannot perform correct math manipulations?

I have helped to TA and taught several courses with mixtures of advanced undergraduate and early graduate students in engineering/STEM. These courses are the classics: signal processing, control, ...
Fraïssé's user avatar
  • 749
25 votes
5 answers
5k views

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 ...
Matthew Leingang's user avatar
25 votes
13 answers
20k views

Ideas for high school pure maths projects

I am thinking of giving my high school students some pure maths projects to do. It is a lot easier to think of some interesting stats projects but not in pure maths. The students' maths background are ...
user71346's user avatar
  • 359
25 votes
8 answers
4k views

Are there disadvantages to teaching complex numbers as purely geometrical objects?

Complex numbers are, or at least were to me, generally introduced like this: There's no number whose square is negative. That's a shame! Well, whatever - we'll make one up! Set $i^2=-1$ and declare ...
Jack M's user avatar
  • 1,357
25 votes
7 answers
4k views

Why do we care about multiple proofs of the same theorem?

I am teaching a math appreciation course to high school students who are approximately 17 years old, in their last year of high school, and who do not believe they will choose a STEM major in ...
Amanda's user avatar
  • 553
25 votes
6 answers
2k views

Practical experience with teaching differentials in freshman calc?

There is a well known essay by Dray and Manogue which argues that differentials should be brought back into freshman calculus, and that we shouldn't worry too much about choosing a specific way of ...
user avatar
25 votes
5 answers
1k views

A Series of Unfortunate Examples!

All of us know, when teaching, the "right" choice of examples is important. Though, making the "right" choice is one of those things that are easier said than done. Here is the ...
Amir Asghari's user avatar
  • 4,438
25 votes
7 answers
3k views

How do you coach students who often make small errors?

Some students are prone to making small calculation errors. Not errors in understanding, but errors like adding or multiplying integers incorrectly, or dropping a negative sign. Unsystematic errors in ...
Mike Pierce's user avatar
  • 4,845
25 votes
2 answers
4k views

Are there science-backed effective teaching strategies?

As a math teacher, I am always trying to self-assess my teaching methods. I am trying a lot of different methods but I would like to organize my study on the subject without weighing too much on the ...
marco trevi's user avatar
25 votes
8 answers
2k views

What are the historical reasons for the hostility against standardized testing in the US?

NB. Some answers appear to be for a question I did not ask, namely, "Why is standardized testing bad?" Indeed, these answers tend to underscore the premise of my actual question, which can ...
user avatar
25 votes
6 answers
1k views

How can you explain to students that they should not use the same variable in an integrand and in the limits of integration simultaneously?

When teaching Calculus, one thing that many teachers emphasize is that the variable of integration is a `dummy variable' that is unimportant. Around the same time, we introduce integrals with ...
Brian Rushton's user avatar
25 votes
5 answers
4k views

When did US mathematics programs start failing to prepare incoming students for books like "Baby" Rudin?

I've seen in a lot of questions about "which textbook to use for intro analysis", and inevitably Rudin's Principles of Mathematical Analysis comes up, with the (almost cliche) rejoinder that "today's ...
user avatar
25 votes
8 answers
2k views

Counterintuitive consequences of standard definitions

Let me motivate my question with the following situation. While teaching the concept of continuity, I usually start with motivating the concept. Then, when we see that there is an important and ...
András Bátkai's user avatar
25 votes
4 answers
2k views

How should one tutor a student in undergraduate real analysis?

I am an undergraduate. Other undergraduates sometimes ask me to tutor them in an introductory real analysis course that covers the equivalent of the first half-dozen chapters of Rudin's Principles of ...
Potato's user avatar
  • 539
25 votes
3 answers
2k views

The impact of dyslexia on learning mathematics, and available resources

I have always loved the beauty of mathematics and physics. However I'm severely dyslexic and find it hard to keep numbers in my head, any more than 4 numbers at a time and they melt together and lose ...
Project-404's user avatar
25 votes
2 answers
1k views

Student Poisoned Experience with Math

I’d like to start off with saying I am not a teacher so I don’t know how much of this is already trying to be addressed in math education throughout the world. In talking to and tutoring fellow ...
ruler501's user avatar
  • 530
25 votes
5 answers
829 views

"Function" vs "Function of ...": how much does it contribute to students difficulties?

Most textbooks I've seen (and teachers I've met, myself included) are rather careless about the distinction between variables and functions. For example, when we write $y=f(x)$ we all know that $f$ ...
Michael Bächtold's user avatar
25 votes
1 answer
706 views

Tutoring elementary student who reverses left and right

I am a volunteer math tutor. My student is in fifth grade. He was evaluated in August and found to be at the first grade level in math. (His reading is very close to grade level.) He has epilepsy, ...
aparente001's user avatar
25 votes
1 answer
774 views

Is there a Piagetian age at which proofs can be comprehended?

I am wondering if there is literature on the developmental age (pre-adolescent?, adolescent?) at which the notion of a "proof" can be understood? I am less interested in mathematical proofs and more ...
Joseph O'Rourke's user avatar
24 votes
17 answers
4k views

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-...
Amir Asghari's user avatar
  • 4,438
24 votes
9 answers
5k views

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 ...
Improve's user avatar
  • 1,881
24 votes
5 answers
6k views

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 ...
Nick C's user avatar
  • 9,709
24 votes
13 answers
6k views

What is a free and simple 3D plot software for students?

I need any plot software on Linux or Windows that my students should use it for plotting 3D functions. I want introduce any software that be free and useful for bachelor students.
Huseyin's user avatar
  • 643
24 votes
6 answers
2k views

What is the proper way to ask a "find the domain" question?

A function is not really a function unless it's defined everywhere on its domain. So consider these three questions: Let $f: \mathbb{R} \rightarrow \mathbb{R}$ be the square root function $f(x) = \...
Paul Castle's user avatar
24 votes
10 answers
4k views

Is 'estimating' still considered a valuable skill?

I was with a 2nd year high school class, preparing for our (US) state's standardized test. I asked the class how they would solve this, and they flipped through the sheets to find $$V=\frac{1}{3}\pi ...
JTP - Apologise to Monica's user avatar
24 votes
5 answers
8k views

How does a teacher come up with plausible wrong answers for multiple choice tests?

When taking a MOOC in calculus the exercises contain 5 options to select from. I then solve the question and select the option that matches my answer. Obviously only one of the options is correct. But ...
Marcus's user avatar
  • 351
24 votes
10 answers
4k views

How to encourage young student to think in unusual ways?

I tutor a young girl aged 11 (grade 4). She is doing OK for her age, but I have observed that she has a tendency for rigid ways of thinking. She is usually more inclined to follow rules and stick to ...
BKE's user avatar
  • 1,292
24 votes
6 answers
2k views

What are some good rules for handling student questions during exams?

For example, I gave an exam earlier today with a problem that ended in the sentence Use the chain rule to find $(f\circ g)'(3)$. During the exam, one of the students asked me what the circle ...
Jim Belk's user avatar
  • 8,279

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