Use the convention tag for questions about standard, cultural practices in mathematics.

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43
votes
11answers
8k views

What is the average of no numbers?

I have two programs that both behave nearly identically: they both take in any numbers you give them and can tell you the average and how many numbers were given. However, when you don't give them any ...
31
votes
11answers
8k views

What could be better than base 10?

Most people use base 10; it's obviously the common notation in the modern world. However, if we could change what became the common notation, would there be a better choice? I'm aware that it very ...
20
votes
6answers
663 views

Is there a fundamental reason that $\int_b^a = -\int_a^b$

Is there a fundamental reason that switching the order of the limits in an integral results in the negative, i.e., $$\int_b^af(x)\,dx = -\int_a^bf(x)\,dx?$$ As far as I can tell, this is just chosen ...
18
votes
6answers
5k views

No radical in the denominator — why? [duplicate]

Why do all school algebra texts define simplest form for expressions with radicals to not allow a radical in the denominator. For the classic example, $1/\sqrt{3}$ needs to be "simplified" to $\sqrt{3}...
17
votes
6answers
2k views

Why do we (mostly) restrict ourselves to Latin and Greek symbols?

99% of variables, constants, etc. that I run into are named for either a Latin character (like $x$) or a Greek character (e.g. $\pi$). Sometimes I twitch a little when I have to keep two separate ...
17
votes
3answers
1k views

Starting sentences with mathematical symbols.

I apologise if this is a duplicate in any way or is too opinion-based. To what extent is it best not to start a sentence with a mathematical symbol? I find that when trying to solve a problem or ...
16
votes
5answers
837 views

What are reasons why some symbols in mathematical logic are not standardized?

Why is so hard to find a standardisation regarding symbolism and/or terminology in Mathematical Logic ? We see again and again students asking if e.g. $\rightarrow$ and $\implies$ means the same ...
14
votes
5answers
2k views

use of $\sum $ for uncountable indexing set

I was wondering whether it makes sense to use the $\sum $ notation for uncountable indexing sets. For example it seems to me it would not make sense to say $$ \sum_{a \in A} a \quad \text{where A is ...
12
votes
5answers
532 views

Why are the order-of-operations conventions good?

Children are sometimes taught silly mnemonics like "PEMDAS" to remember conventions on order of operations. (I never heard of "PEMDAS" until long after graduating from college, as far as I can recall....
11
votes
3answers
499 views

Rationale for a convention: Why use the semiperimeter in Heron's formula?

Heron's formula says that the area of a triangle whose sides have lengths $a, b, c$ is $\sqrt{s(s-a)(s-b)(s-c)}$ where $s=(a+b+c)/2$ is the semiperimeter. It can also be stated by saying that the ...
10
votes
5answers
819 views

$\{1,1\}=\{1\}$, origin of this convention

Is there any book that explicitly contain the convention that a representation of the set that contain repeated element is the same as the one without repeated elements? Like $\{1,1,2,3\} = \{1,2,3\}$...
10
votes
3answers
872 views

Advocating base 12 number system

I had a calculus professor who suggested we should be using base 12 number system. What are the advantages of using such a system?
10
votes
2answers
4k views

Obtaining the $\frac{1}{2\pi}$ factor in the Fourier transform

This MathWorld page gives this definition of a Fourier transform: $$F(k) = \int_{-\infty}^{\infty} f(x) e^{-2\pi i k x}dx.$$ But, I wish to speak in terms of linear frequency $\nu$ and time $t$ ...
9
votes
3answers
4k views

What does a “convention” mean in mathematics?

We all know that $0!=1$, the degree of the zero polynomial equals $-\infty$, the interval$[a,a)=(a,a]=(a,a)=\emptyset$ ... and so on, are conventions in mathematics. So is a convention something that ...
8
votes
1answer
119 views

Wikipedia claims that number theorists tend to prefer $0 \notin \mathbb{N}$. Is this actually true?

According to wikipedia here: $\mathbb{N}$ means either $\{ 0, 1, 2, 3, ...\}$ or $\{ 1, 2, 3, ...\}.$ The choice depends on the area of mathematics being studied; e.g. number theorists ...
7
votes
2answers
376 views

Why does this text insist on changing the variable name here?

In What is mathematics? by Courant, Robbins, and Stewart, "5. An important inequality", the authors change $n$ in this example: $$(1+p)^n\geq1+np$$ to $r$ in this example: $$(1+p)^r\geq1+rp$$ In ...
7
votes
9answers
248 views

Why is empty product defined to be $1$? [duplicate]

For example $\prod_{2 \le j < 1} 2^j= 1.$ How does that happen?
7
votes
1answer
165 views

What is $\varphi(0)$? [duplicate]

$\varphi$ is Euler's totient function. My question is: When/if $\varphi$ is defined at $0$, what is it usually defined as? Is there a "most natural" or more commonly accepted definition of $\varphi(...
7
votes
1answer
94 views

The convention for speakers to refer to themselves at the board with a single initial

This question is being asked on behalf of a graduate student in my department. When and where did the tradition start of a seminar or colloquium speaker using just the first initial of the speaker's ...
6
votes
3answers
216 views

Product of permutation cycles, transpositions. Are there different conventions in the order?

From this answer I get that within each cycle you map each element to the one on the right, when taking the product of cycles the one on the right should be performed first, as a typical operator. ...
6
votes
4answers
73 views

Is $\mp a$ actually different than $\pm a$?

So, the way I understand $\pm a$ as a general concept is basically as follows: $\pm a$ is really just two numbers, functions, or whatever $a$ represents, but the catch is that one of the $a$'s is ...
6
votes
3answers
119 views

Which is more simplified: $a\sqrt{b}$ or $\sqrt{c}$?

Which is considered more simplified (if it matters)? $a \sqrt{b}$ or $\sqrt{c}$ For example: $2 \sqrt{3}$ or $\sqrt{12}$
6
votes
2answers
207 views

Good Hygiene in using Quantifiers

When using quantifiers it is probably important to pick up certain habits that Veterans agree upon as early as possible. Since it was pointed out to me by a highly esteemed member that it's ...
6
votes
4answers
163 views

Zero polynomial [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Polynomial of degree $-\infty$? Today in Abstract Algebra my instructor briefly mentioned that sometimes the zero polynomial is defined to have degree $-\infty$. What ...
6
votes
1answer
236 views

Where should the 2$\pi$ go in the Fourier Transform?

In some lecture notes on Harmonic Analysis from Terence Tao here, he defines the fourier transform by $$\hat{f}(\tau)=\int_{\mathbb{R}}e^{-2\pi i t\tau}f(t)dt$$ and then says This is really the ...
5
votes
5answers
293 views

No difference between $0/0$ and $0^0$?

I have seen discussions about both $0/0$ and $0^0$ and they differ a bit in the way that most seem ok with calling $0/0$ "undefined", while the $0^0$ discussion still seems like a dispute. If this is ...
5
votes
2answers
129 views

Is $(a,a]=\{\emptyset\}$?

Let $a \in \mathbb{R}$, and consider the half open interval $(a,a]$. Is it correct to write this half open interval as $(a,a]=\{\emptyset \}$? Or $(a,a]=\{a \}$?
5
votes
3answers
2k views

The Degree of Zero Polynomial.

I wonder why the degree of the zero polynomial is $-\infty$ ? I heard that, it is $-\infty$ to make the formula $\deg(fg)=\deg(f)+\deg(g)$ hold when one of these polynomials is zero. However, if that ...
5
votes
1answer
142 views

Choosing the definition of $\frac{\partial^2}{\partial x\partial y}$

Today, I answered this question and discovered that the definition of $\dfrac{\partial^2}{\partial x\partial y}$ is a matter of convention. For example this .edu link and this other .edu link use the ...
4
votes
2answers
249 views

Can mathematical definitions of the form “P if Q” be interpreted as “P if and only if Q”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Alternative ways to say “if and only if”? So when I come across mathematical definitions like "A function is continuous if...."A space is compact if....","Two ...
4
votes
2answers
89 views

A question on notation: $u(x,y)$ vs. $u(x+iy)$.

In Tao's complex analysis notes, he uses the convention that $$f(z)=u(z)+iv(z)= u(x+iy)+iv(x+iy)$$ implying that the functions are $$u,v:\mathbb{C} \to \mathbb{R}.$$ But in other places I see the ...
4
votes
3answers
108 views

Notation for $X - \mathbb{E}(X)$?

Let $X$ be a random variable with expectation value $\mathbb{E}(X)=\mu$. Is there a (reasonably standard) notation to denote the "centered" random variable $X - \mu$? And, while I'm at it, if $X_i$ ...
4
votes
2answers
66 views

Conjugacy in $S_n$ with composing permutations left to right vs. right to left

I realize there are two conventions for composing permutations. Left to right: $(1\ 2)(1\ 3) = (1\ 2\ 3)$ Right to left: $(1\ 2)(1\ 3) = (1\ 3\ 2)$ Among others, Dummit and Foote and Contemporary ...
4
votes
3answers
819 views

What is a Neighborhood?

Which of these definitions is more commonly used, and in which contexts? Fix a point $x\in (X, \tau)$. Then a neighborhood around a point $x$ is: a set $N\ni x$ and $N\in \tau$ a set $N$ with $x\in ...
4
votes
1answer
59 views

Are these equivalent? $\cos^2(5x) = (\cos(5x))^2$

Are these equivalent? $$\cos^2(5x) = (\cos(5x))^2$$
4
votes
1answer
97 views

Quantities $g_2$, $g_3$, $\Delta$

This question is somewhat related to this one. Let $\lambda$ be the modular lambda function. Greenhill (Elliptic Functions, p. 57) states that we may put $$g_2 = \frac{1 - \lambda + \lambda^2}{12}, \...
4
votes
2answers
647 views

Convention of digit grouping after decimal point

I read that different cultures have different ways of grouping digits before the decimal point for readability e.g. 1234567890 can be grouped as 1 234 567 890 (English), 12 3456 7890 (Chinese) or 1 23 ...
4
votes
2answers
25k views

Square root of a number squared is equal to the absolute value of that number [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Significance of $\displaystyle\sqrt[n]{a^n} $? The square root of a number squared is equal to the absolute value of that number. Why is $\sqrt{x^2} = |x|$? Why not just $x$...
4
votes
0answers
63 views

Can a disconnected surface have a (negative) genus?

This question is rather about a convention. Is it possible (and conventional) to asign to, say the disconnected sum of two connected surfaces $X=\Sigma_h \sqcup \Sigma_g$ a genus? Since one has $\...
4
votes
1answer
157 views

Category of topological pairs

Is there a standard abbreviation for the category of topological pairs? I have searched for it in vain.
3
votes
8answers
251 views

What is $2 - 1 + 1$? [duplicate]

$2-1+1$; a fairly straightforward question, but I (well, not me, but Henry Reich) found something strange. Most people would evaluate it as $2+(-1)+1 = 2$; however, this goes against the famed, and ...
3
votes
3answers
183 views

$x^{y^z}$: is it $x^{(y^z)}$ or $(x^y)^z$?

Of the following, why is a usually considered true, and for what reason other than "tradition" and "more convenient"? a: ${x}^{y^z} = x^{(y^z)} \neq {(x^y)}^z$ b: ${x}^{y^z} = {(x^y)}^z \neq x^{(y^...
3
votes
3answers
590 views

In what order are chained implications evaluated? (i.e. $a \implies b \implies c$)

Implication does not appear to be associative: a b c | (a -> b) -> c | a -> (b -> c) F T F | F | T F F F | F | T Is $a \...
3
votes
5answers
5k views

What type of input does trigonometric functions take in

I see in my Book that 45 deg is equivalent of π/4 . Ι also do the conversion if I simply convert degrees into radians like this 45* π/180 = π/4 radians and ...
3
votes
2answers
81 views

Should “together with” be taken as slang for an n-tuple?

When an algebraic structure is defined, it is often defined as a set $S$ "along with"/"together with"/"having" operations $\circ_1, \circ_2, \ldots, \circ_n$, and "denoted" by $(S, \circ_1, \circ_2, \...
3
votes
3answers
75 views

Is there a mathematical reason why rotation in the counterclockwise direction positive and clockwise rotation negative?

This inquiry has recently come to me in my study of trigonometry and the unit circle. It was said right from the very start that counterclockwise rotation were positive while clockwise rotations are ...
3
votes
1answer
319 views

Commas separating adjectives to describe mathematical objects.

Is there a convention which rules that in mathematics an object with some properties should be referred to as a "property 1 property 2 property 3 ...object" rather than a "property 1, property 2, ...
3
votes
2answers
27 views

convention of a default atlas

Recently, I have been studying the basics of differential geometry and te necessary preliminaries. I arrived at the construction of differential structure on topological manifolds, where the non-...
3
votes
2answers
165 views

Usage of $\cdot$ in calculus

I often find myself caught in the dilemma of whether or not to use the symbol $\cdot$ in calculus. Take for example, the chain rule: $$\frac{dy}{dx} = \frac{dy}{du}\cdot\frac{du}{dx}$$ Is the $\cdot$...
3
votes
1answer
92 views

Commas between adjectives [duplicate]

Is it correct to use these expressions without commas (as written below)? A finite simple group. A finitely generated abelian group. A finitely generated torsion-free abelian group. A ...