Linear, exponential, logarithmic, polynomial, rational, and trigonometric functions, conic sections, binomial, surds, graphs and transformations of graphs, equation- and system-solving, and other symbolic-manipulation topics.

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708
votes
25answers
113k views

How long will it take Marie to saw another board into 3 pieces?

So this is supposed to be really simple, and it's taken from the following picture: Text-only: It took Marie $10$ minutes to saw a board into $2$ pieces. If she works just as fast, how long ...
393
votes
10answers
402k views

Is this Batman equation for real?

HardOCP has an image with an equation which apparently draws the Batman logo. Is this for real?
269
votes
33answers
34k views

Pedagogy: How to cure students of the “law of universal linearity”?

One of the commonest mistakes made by students, appearing at every level of maths education up to about early undergraduate, is the so-called “Law of Universal Linearity”: $$ \frac{1}{a+b} ...
204
votes
23answers
17k views

Zero to the zero power - is $0^0=1$?

Could someone provide me with good explanation of why $0^0 = 1$? My train of thought: $x > 0$ $0^x = 0^{x-0} = 0^x/0^0$, so $0^0 = 0^x/0^x = ?$ Possible answers: $0^0 \cdot 0^x = 1 \cdot ...
182
votes
20answers
20k views

Why can ALL quadratic equations be solved by the quadratic formula?

In algebra, all quadratic problems can be solved by using the quadratic formula. I read a couple of books, and they told me only HOW and WHEN to use this formula, but they don't tell me WHY I can use ...
146
votes
21answers
27k views

Is $0.999999999… = 1$?

I'm told by smart people that $0.999999999\ldots = 1$, and I believe them, but is there a proof that explains why this is?
139
votes
19answers
10k views

Mental Calculations

This is the famous picture "Mental Arithmetic. In the Public School of S. Rachinsky." by the Russian artist Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky. The problem presented on a blackboard requires computing the ...
128
votes
9answers
5k views

What does $2^x$ really mean when $x$ is not an integer?

We all know that $2^5$ means $2\times 2\times 2\times 2\times 2 = 32$, but what does $2^\pi$ mean? How is it possible to calculate that without using a calculator? I am really curious about this, so ...
92
votes
21answers
7k views

Proving the identity $\sum_{k=1}^n {k^3} = \big(\sum_{k=1}^n k\big)^2$ without induction

I recently proved that $$ \sum_{k=1}^n k^3 = \left(\sum_{k=1}^n k \right)^2 $$ Using mathematical induction. I'm interested if there's an intuitive explanation, or even a combinatorial ...
91
votes
23answers
12k views

If squaring a number means multiplying that number with itself then shouldn't taking square root of a number mean to divide a number by itself?

If squaring a number means multiplying that number with itself then shouldn't taking square root of a number mean to divide a number by itself? For example the square of $2$ is $2^2=2 \cdot 2=4 $ . ...
89
votes
12answers
11k views

How to convince a math teacher of this simple and obvious fact?

I have in my presence a mathematics teacher, who asserts that $$ \frac{a}{b} = \frac{c}{d} $$ Implies: $$ a = c, \space b=d $$ She has been shown in multiple ways why this is not true: $$ ...
81
votes
1answer
4k views

$4494410$ and friends

The number $4494410$ has the property that when converted to base $16$ it is $44944A_{16}$, then if the $A$ is expanded to $10$ in the string we get back the original number. ...
79
votes
14answers
7k views

Can I think of Algebra like this?

This year in Algebra we first got introduced to the concept of equations with variables. Our teacher is doing a great job of teaching us how to do them, except for one thing: He isn't telling us what ...
77
votes
13answers
5k views

Division by $0$

I thought it was elementary to me, but I started to do some exercises and came up some definitions I have sort of difficulty to distinguish. In parentheses are my questions. $\dfrac {x}{0}$ is ...
74
votes
15answers
5k views

math fallacy problem: $-1= (-1)^3 = (-1)^{6/2} = \sqrt{(-1)^6}= 1$?

I know there is something wrong with this but I don't know where. It's some kind of a math fallacy and it is driving me crazy. Here it is: $$-1= (-1)^3 = (-1)^{6/2} = \sqrt{(-1)^6}= 1?$$
74
votes
14answers
7k views

Why would I want to multiply two polynomials?

I'm hoping that this isn't such a basic question that it gets completely laughed off the site, but why would I want to multiply two polynomials together? I flipped through some algebra books and ...
72
votes
5answers
14k views

Value of $\sum\limits_n x^n$

Why does the following hold: \begin{equation*} \displaystyle \sum\limits_{n=0}^{\infty} 0.7^n=\frac{1}{1-0.7} = 10/3 ? \end{equation*} Can we generalize the above to $\displaystyle ...
70
votes
15answers
6k views

Why rationalize the denominator?

In grade school we learn to rationalize denominators of fractions when possible. We are taught that $\frac{\sqrt{2}}{2}$ is simpler than $\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}$. An answer on this site says that "there ...
68
votes
13answers
6k views

What would have been our number system if humans had more than 10 fingers? Try to solve this puzzle.

Try to solve this puzzle: The first expedition to Mars found only the ruins of a civilization. From the artifacts and pictures, the explorers deduced that the creatures who produced this ...
67
votes
4answers
4k views

Are these solutions of $2 = x^{x^{x^{\:\cdot^{\:\cdot^{\:\cdot}}}}}$ correct?

Find $x$ in $$ \Large 2 = x^{x^{x^{\:\cdot^{\:\cdot^{\:\cdot}}}}}$$ A trick to solve this is to see that $$\large 2 = x^{x^{x^{\:\cdot^{\:\cdot^{\:\cdot}}}}} \quad\implies\quad 2 = ...
64
votes
8answers
4k views

Why $\sqrt{-1 \times {-1}} \neq \sqrt{-1}^2$?

I know there must be something unmathematical in the following but I don't know where it is: \begin{align} \sqrt{-1} &= i \\ \\ \frac1{\sqrt{-1}} &= \frac1i \\ \\ \frac{\sqrt1}{\sqrt{-1}} ...
64
votes
10answers
114k views

Is there a general formula for solving 4th degree equations?

There is a general formula for solving quadratic equations, namely the Quadratic Formula. For third degree equations of the form $ax^3+bx^2+cx+d=0$, there is a set of thee equations: one for each ...
62
votes
14answers
12k views

Express 99 2/3% as a fraction? No calculator

My 9-year-old daughter is stuck on this question and normally I can help her, but I am also stuck on this! I have looked everywhere to find out how to do this but to no avail so any help/guidance is ...
61
votes
14answers
4k views

What is $x^y$? How to understand it?

$x+y=z$ I have a pen. He has a pen. Total is two pen. This is plus. $x-y=z$ I had two pens. A pen was lost. So, I have a pen. Total remaining is one. This is minus. $x\cdot y=z$ I have two pens. ...
59
votes
17answers
35k views

What is the most elegant proof of the Pythagorean theorem? [closed]

The Pythagorean Theorem is one of the most popular to prove by mathematicians, and there are many proofs available (including one from James Garfield). What's the most elegant proof? My favorite ...
58
votes
6answers
4k views

Continued fraction fallacy: $1=2$

It's easy to check that for any natural $n$ $$\frac{n+1}{n}=\cfrac{1}{2-\cfrac{n+2}{n+1}}.$$ Now, ...
56
votes
17answers
11k views

Why is a circle 1-dimensional?

In the textbook I am reading, it says a dimension is the number of independent parameters needed to specify a point. In order to make a circle, you need two points to specify the $x$ and $y$ position ...
55
votes
7answers
3k views

$\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\cdots}}}}}$ approximation

Is there any trick to evaluate this or this is an approximation, I mean I am not allowed to use calculator. $$\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\cdots}}}}}$$
54
votes
7answers
19k views

Infinity = -1 paradox

I puzzled two high school Pre-calc math teachers today with a little proof (maybe not) I found a couple years ago that infinity is equal to -1: Let x equal the geometric series: $1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + 16 ...
54
votes
4answers
3k views

A new imaginary number? $x^c = -x$

Being young, I don't have much experience with imaginary numbers outside of the basic usages of $i$. As I was sitting in my high school math class doing logs, I had an idea of something that would ...
54
votes
15answers
6k views

How can I introduce complex numbers to precalculus students?

I teach a precalculus course almost every semester, and over these semesters I've found various things that work quite well. For example, when talking about polynomials and rational functions, in ...
52
votes
10answers
3k views

What Is Exponentiation?

Is there an intuitive definition of exponentiation? In elementary school, we learned that $$ a^b = a \cdot a \cdot a \cdot a \cdots (b\ \textrm{ times}) $$ where $b$ is an integer. Then later on ...
49
votes
24answers
11k views

“Negative” versus “Minus”

As a math educator, do you think it is appropriate to insist that students say "negative $0.8$" and not "minus $0.8$" to denote $-0.8$? The so called "textbook answer" regarding this question reads: ...
46
votes
4answers
1k views

Find the limit $L=\lim_{n\to \infty} \sqrt{\frac{1}{2}+\sqrt[3]{\frac{1}{3}+\cdots+\sqrt[n]{\frac{1}{n}}}}$

Find the limit following: $$L=\lim_{ _{\Large {n\to \infty}}}\:\sqrt{\frac{1}{2}+\sqrt[\Large 3]{\frac{1}{3}+\cdots+\sqrt[\Large n]{\frac{1}{n}}}}$$ P.S I tried to find the value of $\:L$, but I ...
45
votes
14answers
22k views

Why can't you square both sides of an equation?

Why can't you square both sides of an equation? I've been asked this many times and can never quite give a good, clear, concise answer (for beginning algebra students) in plain language. I just ...
45
votes
16answers
92k views

What is a real world application of polynomial factoring?

The wife and I are sitting here on a Saturday night doing some algebra homework. We are factoring polynomials and we both had the same thought at the same time: when are we going to use this? I feel ...
44
votes
5answers
3k views

Inequality from Chapter 5 of the book *How to Think Like a Mathematician*

This is from the book How to think like a Mathematician, How can I prove the inequality $$\sqrt[\large 7]{7!} < \sqrt[\large 8]{8!}$$ without complicated calculus? I tried and finally obtained ...
44
votes
4answers
1k views

AM-GM-HM Triplets

I want to understand what values can be simultaneously attained as the arithmetic (AM), geometric (GM), and harmonic (HM) means of finite sequences of positive real numbers. Precisely, for what points ...
43
votes
5answers
3k views

Functions that are their own inversion. [duplicate]

What are the functions that are their own inverse? (thus functions where $ f(f(x)) = x $ for a large domain) I always thought there were only 4: $f(x) = x , f(x) = -x , f(x) = \frac {1}{x} $ and $ ...
43
votes
2answers
4k views

Given $g(x)$ and $f(g(x))$, solve for $f(x)$.

I've hit a wall on the above question and was unable to find any online examples that also contain trig in $f(g(x))$. I'm sure I am missing something blatantly obvious but I can't quite get it. $$ ...
42
votes
6answers
2k views

Is $\sqrt[3]{p+q\sqrt{3}}+\sqrt[3]{p-q\sqrt{3}}=n$, $(p,q,n)\in\mathbb{N} ^3$ solvable?

In this recent answer to this question by Eesu, Vladimir Reshetnikov proved that $$ \begin{equation} \left( 26+15\sqrt{3}\right) ^{1/3}+\left( 26-15\sqrt{3}\right) ^{1/3}=4.\tag{1} \end{equation} $$ ...
41
votes
2answers
1k views

Denesting radicals like $\sqrt[3]{\sqrt[3]{2} - 1}$

The following result discussed by Ramanujan is very famous: $$\sqrt[3]{\sqrt[3]{2} - 1} = \sqrt[3]{\frac{1}{9}} - \sqrt[3]{\frac{2}{9}} + \sqrt[3]{\frac{4}{9}}\tag {1}$$ and can be easily proved by ...
40
votes
12answers
5k views

Why do I get one extra wrong solution?

I'm trying to solve this equation: $$2-x=-\sqrt{x}$$ Multiply by (-1): $$\sqrt{x}=x-2$$ power of 2: $$x=\left(x-2\right)^2$$ then: $$x^2-5x+4=0$$ and that means: $$x=1, x=4$$ But $1$ is not a ...
40
votes
2answers
2k views

Find all real numbers $x$ for which $\frac{8^x+27^x}{12^x+18^x}=\frac76$

Find all real numbers $x$ for which $$\frac{8^x+27^x}{12^x+18^x}=\frac76$$ I have tried to fiddle with it as follows: $$2^{3x} \cdot 6 +3^{3x} \cdot 6=12^x \cdot 7+18^x \cdot 7$$ $$ 3 \cdot ...
38
votes
1answer
801 views

What is that curve that appears when I use $\ln$ on Pascal's triangle?

I made a little program that generates Pascal triangles as images : I first tried it associating to each pixel a color whose intensity was proportional to the number in the Pascal triangle The ...
37
votes
4answers
2k views

Property of 111,111

Whilst playing on my calculator, I noticed the following pattern. $1^2-0^2=1$ $6^2-5^2=11$ ${20}^2-{17}^2=111$ ${56}^2-{45}^2=1{,}111$ ${156}^2-{115}^2=11{,}111$ To me, this is where it gets ...
37
votes
10answers
1k views

What are Different Approaches to Introduce the Elementary Functions?

Motivation We all get familiar with elementary functions in high-school or college. However, as the system of learning is not that much integrated we have learned them in different ways and the ...
37
votes
3answers
6k views

The Stupid Computer Problem : can every polynomial be written with only one $x$?

When I was a child, I wanted to be a mathematician so I asked my parents to buy me a computer to make super complex calculations. Of course, they were not crazy enough to buy an expensive super ...
36
votes
7answers
2k views

Is there any geometric way to characterize $e$?

Let me explain it better: after this question, I've been looking for a way to put famous constants in the real line in a geometrical way -- just for fun. Putting $\sqrt2$ is really easy: constructing ...
35
votes
15answers
3k views

Which one is bigger: $\;35{,}043 × 25{,}430\,$ or $\,35{,}430 × 25{,}043\;$?

Which of the two quantities is greater? Quantity A: $\;\;35{,}043 × 25{,}430$ Quantity B: $\;\;35{,}430 × 25{,}043$ What is the best and quickest way to get the answer without using ...