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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (3)

26
votes
9answers
8k views

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 $\infty$? ...
26
votes
6answers
2k views

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
votes
11answers
4k views

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 ...
26
votes
6answers
1k views

Why do new rules cause students to forget and misapply older rules?

I teach at a community college. I have taught everything from arithmetic to linear algebra. I have also taught at 4-year schools, but at present, I'm devoting my energies to the problem of helping ...
26
votes
4answers
6k views

Mind maps of Advanced Mathematics and various branches thereof

I would like to get a list of mind maps of advanced mathematics topics. As an example, I have posted one below. I would be happy if you post such other maps. Making one and posting it here is also ...
25
votes
19answers
498 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 ...
25
votes
6answers
5k views

Is a good GRE score enough for a non-math graduate to be accepted in a decent pure mathematics graduate program?

I have a computer engineering degree , and i have studied several mathematics courses like single variable and multiples variables calculus , complex variables , probability , numerical analysis ... ...
25
votes
6answers
6k 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
votes
2answers
777 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; ...
24
votes
11answers
3k views

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. ...
24
votes
12answers
3k 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
votes
8answers
3k views

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 ...
24
votes
6answers
764 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 ...
24
votes
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 ...
23
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 ...
23
votes
6answers
3k views

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 ...
23
votes
7answers
10k views

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
votes
11answers
10k 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.
23
votes
1answer
532 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
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
21
votes
4answers
3k views

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 ...
21
votes
3answers
3k views

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 ...
21
votes
0answers
3k views

GRE past papers

As it is required for most students who wish to do a Ph.D in maths in the US to sit the GRE subject specific mathematics exam, I hope this question will be of interest to the mathematical community ...
20
votes
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
votes
12answers
613 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 ...
20
votes
8answers
2k views

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
votes
5answers
1k views

$\epsilon, \delta$…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
votes
5answers
978 views

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 ...
20
votes
7answers
2k views

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. ...
20
votes
7answers
1k views

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 ...
20
votes
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
votes
5answers
768 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 ...
20
votes
1answer
683 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 ...
20
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, ...
19
votes
7answers
6k views

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 ...
19
votes
2answers
5k views

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 ...
19
votes
8answers
2k views

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 ...
19
votes
17answers
5k views

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, ...
19
votes
8answers
2k views

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
votes
6answers
3k views

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 ...
19
votes
4answers
7k views

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, ...
19
votes
8answers
15k views

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 ...
18
votes
6answers
5k views

How to go from beginner to expert in mathematics?

I'm particularly interested in knowing the order of subjects one should study to become good in mathematics. In my not so great knowledge of the subject I would say that the best place to start could ...
18
votes
6answers
2k views

Why is the definition of “limit” difficult to understand at first?

Tomorrow I teach my students about limits of sequences. I have heard that the definition of limit is often difficult for students to understand, and I want to make it easier. But first I need to ...
18
votes
4answers
1k views

“Best practice” innovative teaching in mathematics

Our department is currently revamping our first-year courses in mathematics, which are huge classes (about 500+ students) that are mostly students who will continue on to Engineering. The existing ...
18
votes
5answers
1k views

Fun math outreach/social activities

What are some great math social activities for students? I'm looking for things that bring people together with a "light" mathematical touch. The goal is to create a stronger mathematical community in ...
18
votes
1answer
8k views

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 ...
18
votes
4answers
1k views

Grasping mathematics

First, I'm not trying to make this sound like a "poor-me" story. I understand fully that every decision I've made leading to this is my fault. I am genuinely looking for advice. So, I am a high ...
18
votes
5answers
710 views

Proving a certain map on the closed unit disc must be the identity

Bounty expired. Will gladly re-create one if a satisfactory answer is posted in the future. Prove: Let $f$ be a continuous function on the closed unit disc with two properties: 1. $f$ is the ...
18
votes
1answer
658 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 ...