For questions related to the teaching and learning of mathematics. Note that Mathematics Educators Stack Exchange may be a better home for narrowly scoped questions on specific issues in mathematics education.

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Should I understand a theorem's proof before using the theorem?

I find myself embarrassed when using results in books. For example, there are so many results in Sobolev spaces that I think I would not be able to understand all of them. Yes, I could try to ...
28
votes
7answers
10k views

How to study for analysis?

I am currently a first year undergraduate majoring in mathematics. I'm taking an introductory analysis course and find it very hard compared to other math couses. I know that the topics covered in the ...
28
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6answers
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Teaching Introductory Real Analysis

I am currently helping teach an introduction to real analysis course at UC Berkeley. The textbook we are using in Rudin's "Principles of Mathematical Analysis" (aka baby rudin). I am trying to find ...
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6answers
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Cool mathematics I can show to calculus students.

I am a TA for theoretical linear algebra and calculus course this semester. This is an advanced course for strong freshmen. Every discussion section I am trying to show my students (give them as a ...
28
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3answers
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Good ways to help people learn math.

I have a student position at my university, which involves helping people who are struggling with basic calculus, precalculus, and discrete math. In general, the students that I help are hostile ...
28
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4answers
2k views

Understanding mathematics imprecisely

For a long time, it has been a complete mystery to me how any of my peers understood any math at all with anything short of filling in every detail, being careful about every set theoretic detail down ...
27
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10answers
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Are there contradictions in math?

Someone told me that math has a lot of contradictions. He said that a lot of things are not well defined. He told me two things that I do not know. $1+2+3+4+...=-1/12$ what is infinity $\infty$? ...
27
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20answers
991 views

What are some surprising appearances of $e$?

I recently came across the following beautiful and seemingly out-of-the-blue appearance of $e$: $E[\xi]=e$, where $\xi$ is a random variable that is defined as follows. It's the minimum number of ...
27
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11answers
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Vivid examples of vector spaces?

When teaching abstract vector spaces for the first time, it is handy to have some really weird examples at hand, or even some really weird non-examples that may illustrate the concept. For example, a ...
27
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6answers
896 views

Open source lecture notes and textbooks

This question is inspired by the popular "Best Sets of Lecture Notes and Articles". Indeed, I would like to collect a "big-list" of open source (that is, with $\LaTeX$ code available) high-quality (...
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6answers
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Why do we need to prove $e^{u+v} = e^ue^v$?

In this book I'm using the author seems to feel a need to prove $e^{u+v} = e^ue^v$ By $\ln(e^{u+v}) = u + v = \ln(e^u) + \ln(e^v) = \ln(e^u e^v)$ Hence $e^{u+v} = e^u e^v$ But we know from basic ...
26
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8answers
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I'm teaching a college geometry course. What should I cover?

I've been asked to teach "Foundations of Geometry" at the University of South Carolina. Apparently, professors in the past have all done very different things, and I have a lot of choice in the matter....
26
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2answers
975 views

Collections of undergraduate research projects [closed]

I would like to compile a "big list" of undergraduate research projects in the following areas of mathematics: calculus; analysis; abstract algebra; linear algebra; number theory; geometry; ...
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11answers
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Puzzles or short exercises illustrating mathematical problem solving to freshman students

At high school, the solution method to almost all mathematical exercises is to apply some technique or algorithm you have learned before. At the university, the situation is fundamentally different. ...
25
votes
6answers
7k views

Complete undergraduate bundle-pack [closed]

First of all I'm sorry if this is not the right place to post this. I like math a lot. But I'm not sure if i want to do a math major in college. My question is: Can you give me a list of books that ...
25
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11answers
11k views

3D software like GeoGebra

Does it exist a free interactive geometry software, like GeoGebra, which works for 3D geometry? I would be able to draw spheres, great circles, and so on.
25
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2answers
3k views

Books to study for Math GRE, self-study, have some time.

I just graduated from a regional university in the US with a minor in mathematics. There is a masters program overseas, for economics, that I want to attend but they require applicants to take the ...
24
votes
7answers
4k views

Why do introductory real analysis courses teach bottom up?

A big part of introductory real analysis courses is getting intuition for the $\epsilon-\delta$ proofs. For example, these types of proofs come up a lot when studying differentiation, continuity, and ...
24
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12answers
4k views

How do I make a student understand contradiction?

We were trying to prove that if $3p^2=q^2$ for nonnegative integers $p$ and $q$, then $3$ divides both $p$ and $q$. I finished writing the solution (using Euclid's lemma) when a student asked me "...
24
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6answers
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Mathematics - The big picture

My knowledge in math sums up to several university level courses and a lot of self-study. Sometimes it feels like Mathematics is a huge subject with a lot of different areas which some of them ...
24
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9answers
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Online Math Degree Programs

Are there any real online mathematics (applied math, statistics, ...) degree programs out there? I'm full-time employed, thus not having the flexibility of attending an on campus program. I also ...
23
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15answers
1k views

How to explain to a 14-year-old that $\sqrt{(-3)^2}$ isn't $-3$?

I had this problem yesterday. I tried to explain to the kid this: $$\sqrt{(-3)^2} = 3,$$ and he immediately said: "My teacher told us that we can cancel the square with the square root, so it's $$\...
23
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7answers
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Teaching a 4 year old maths

Im 18 years old and getting to grips with advanced mathematics (pre-university) and I have a younger brother of 4 years old (quite an age gap). I want to get him interested in learning (and away from ...
23
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1answer
548 views

How much math education was typical in the 18th & 19th century?

Was it unusual for people in those days to learn Calculus? Could a grad student take a course in differential equations or multi-variable Calculus, or did they have to learn from journals? I am always ...
22
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4answers
2k views

How to respond to “solve this equation” in a basic algebra class

If it's acceptable practice on math.se, I'd like to really only ask this question of math educators as opposed to students or mathematical researchers. Some researchers will undoubtedly think the ...
22
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3answers
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Research Experience for Undergraduates: Summer Programs (that accept non-American applicants)

There are many summer research programs in the United States, targeted at good motivated undergraduate students majoring in mathematics. The main aspects that characterize such programs are: (a) a ...
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4answers
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Is all of mathematics based on logic?

I do not understand the discipline in mathematics that is called "mathematical logic". For me, all of mathematics is based on logic and that is what makes it the exact science. Every theorem or lemma ...
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17answers
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Explaining Horizontal Shifting and Scaling

I always find myself wanting for a clear explanation (to a college algebra student) for the fact that horizontal transformations of graphs work in the opposite way that one might expect. For example, ...
21
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7answers
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Definition of definition

I was wondering if there is a good way to "define" what definition means exactly in mathematics. Since the answers may be subjective or philosophical, I want to ask only for references on this topic. ...
21
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7answers
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Can someone provide the formal definition of the tangent line to a curve?

I was recently explaining differentiation from first principles to a colleague and how differentiation can be used to obtain the tangent line to a curve at any point. While doing this, my colleague ...
21
votes
1answer
736 views

Learning Math Efficienctly and Succeeding in Grad School

I'm currently a second year Ph.D. student studying pure math. I've recently come to the conclusion that I must be studying wrong. Actually, more to the point, I must be thinking about mathematics ...
21
votes
0answers
4k views

What are some strong algebraic number theory PhD programs? [closed]

I am currently applying for PhD programs in the US. My main interests are number theory and algebra. More specifically, I am interested in algebraic number theory (number fields, Galois groups, ...
20
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16answers
2k views

An example for a calculation where imaginary numbers are used but don't occur in the question or the solution.

In a presentation I will have to give an account of Hilbert's concept of real and ideal mathematics. Hilbert wrote in his treatise "Über das Unendliche" (page 14, second paragraph. Here is an English ...
20
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7answers
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Why teach linear algebra before abstract algebra?

Is there a reason why most undergraduate curriculums put linear algebra before abstract algebra? I'm asking this because personally it seems to be much easier to understand the architecture behind ...
20
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12answers
639 views

$2\times2$ matrices are not big enough

Olga Tausky-Todd had once said that "If an assertion about matrices is false, there is usually a 2x2 matrix that reveals this." There are, however, assertions about matrices that are true for $2\...
20
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2answers
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Path to Basics in Algebraic Geometry from HS Algebra and Calculus?

In this question, Why study Algebraic Geometry?, Javier Álvarez, develops a succint but encompassing description of algebraic geometry and its spread across different areas of mathematics. Indeed, it ...
20
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6answers
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What does Khan Academy have to offer? Depth? Rigor?

Khan Academy - http://www.khanacademy.org/ - is often cited as a great online resource for learning mathematics and other subjects. I have heard many good things about this website and was wondering ...
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8answers
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How do authors make their problems/exercises for their math books? [closed]

I want to be a math professor one day, but I'm wondering how to make my own original problems to give them to my students. I think that it is a responsibility of the professor to create original and ...
20
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5answers
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$\epsilon, \delta$…So what?

Over the course of my studies I often encounter phrases in reference material of the type "and this avoids the need for using $\epsilon$, $\delta$ definitions" or "by this we can omit those ...
20
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5answers
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Elementary problems with group theoretic solutions

I am helping a friend develop a course in abstract algebra that is designed for high school students who have no knowledge of abstract algebra or any real exposure to formally rigorous mathematics. To ...
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3answers
1k views

A problem V.I. Arnold solved as a primary school student

According to a 1995 interview that Vladimir I. Arnold gave to the Notices of the AMS, his primary school teacher I.V. Morozkin gave in 1949 (when Arnold was 12 years old) to a Soviet classroom, most ...
20
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4answers
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Bridging any “gaps” between AP Calculus and College/Univ level Calculus II

I've been asked to tutor a soon-to-be college freshman who has taken AP Calculus and successfully earned college credit for first semester calculus. He has been admitted to an Engineering program, ...
20
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5answers
848 views

Big list of serious but fun “unusual” books

I would like to have some suggestions about serious (that is, with good mathematical content) but fun books that cover topics (or propose problems) in "recreational mathematics"; in any other field (...
19
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8answers
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When is something “obvious”?

I try to be a good student but I often find it hard to know when something is "obvious" and when it isn't. Obviously (excuse the pun) I understand that it is specific to the level at which the writer ...
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8answers
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Should a high school introductory calculus class teach $\varepsilon$-$\delta$ proofs?

It seems to me that most high school students are comfortable with the intuitive notion of a limit ("as $x$ gets arbitrarily close to $c$, $f(x)$ gets arbitrarily close to $L$") and gain little ...
19
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5answers
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Best books in the genre “______ for Mathematicians”

I once heard someone (perhaps from someone famous -- anyone have a citation?) say that there ought to be a series of books called "__ for Mathematicians," each one of which would explain a different ...
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9answers
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Elementary Papers at ArXiv

Inspired by this question, at MO i am asking this question. Can anyone list some elementary articles at ArXiv which can be understood by High-School/Undergrad Students. I am asking this because, i ...
19
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1answer
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Strange old multiplication table found in Oklahoma school

Today I read an article about chalk boards from 1917 discovered in an Oklahoma school. One of the chalkboards included the following curious image: (Oklahoma City Public Schools) The article ...
19
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5answers
572 views

Is it necessary to prove everything and solve every problem in the books? [on hold]

I am an undergraduate really passionate about the mathematics and microbiology. I have few big problems in learning which I would like to seek your advice. Whenever I study mathematical books (...
19
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1answer
734 views

Which universities teach true infinitesimal calculus?

My colleague and I are currently teaching "true infinitesimal calculus" (TIC), in the sense of calculus with infinitesimals, to a class of about 120 freshmen at our university, based on the book by ...