Questions related to the teaching and learning of mathematics.

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89
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9answers
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Why is Euler's Gamma function the “best” extension of the factorial function to the reals?

There are lots (an infinitude) of smooth functions that coincide with f(n)=n! on the integers. Is there a simple reason why Euler's Gamma function $\Gamma (z) = \int_0^\infty t^{z-1} e^t dt$ is ...
58
votes
23answers
23k views

What is a good complex analysis textbook?

I'm out of college, and trying to learn complex analysis on my own. I took out Ahlfors' text from the library, but I'm finding it difficult. Any textbook recommendations? I'm probably at an ...
518
votes
151answers
32k views

What was the first bit of mathematics that made you realize that math is beautiful? (For children's book)

I'm a children's book writer and illustrator, and I want to to create a book for young readers that exposes the beauty of mathematics. I recently read Paul Lockhart's essay "The Mathematician's ...
3
votes
4answers
439 views

Factoring $ac$ to factor $ax^2+bx+c$

I was watching a first-year high-school-algebra student struggle with factoring quadratics last night. Given a quadratic $ax^2+bx+c$ (I'll give you the exact example in a moment), her method — ...
557
votes
48answers
369k views

Visually stunning math concepts which are easy to explain [on hold]

Since I'm not that good at (as I like to call it) 'die-hard-mathematics', I've always liked concepts like the golden ratio or the dragon curve, which are easy to understand and explain, but are ...
46
votes
4answers
5k views

Do you prove all theorems whilst studying?

When you come across a new theorem, do you always try to prove it first before reading the proof within the text? I'm a CS undergrad with a bit of an interest in maths. I've not gone very far in my ...
29
votes
3answers
997 views

Create a Huge Problem

I am wondering if any problems have been designed that test a wide range of mathematical skills. For example, I remember doing the integral $$\int \sqrt{\tan x}\;\mathrm{d}x$$ and being impressed at ...
47
votes
14answers
10k views

How to effectively and efficiently learn mathematics

How do you effectively study mathematics? How does one read a maths book instead or just staring at it for hours? (Apologies in advance if the question is ill-posed or too subjective in its current ...
7
votes
4answers
1k views

Expanding problem solving skill

I have a great passion for Math but my lack in problem solving skill always keeps me away from the "good stuff". I always wanted to be better at Math and one of the things I figured out was to keep ...
45
votes
9answers
6k views

How to effectively study math?

Maybe this is too general for here, but I am having a lot of difficulty studying math. Just got out of the military and I guess I am not use to this yet but when I run into a problem I have trouble ...
49
votes
8answers
7k views

When to learn category theory?

I'm a undergraduate who wishes to learn category theory but I only have basic knowledge of linear algebra and set theory, I've also had a short course on number theory which used some basic concepts ...
7
votes
7answers
3k views

Easiest and most complex proof of $\gcd (a,b) \times \operatorname{lcm} (a,b) =ab.$

I'm looking for an understandable proof of this theorem, and also a complex one involving beautiful math techniques such as analytic number theory, or something else. I hope you can help me on that. ...
41
votes
9answers
15k views

What is the meaning of the third derivative of a function at a point

(Originally asked on MO by AJAY.) What is the geometric, physical, or other meaning of the third derivative of a function at a point? If you have interesting things to say about the meaning of the ...
76
votes
19answers
11k views

How do you explain the concept of logarithm to a five year old?

Okay I understand that it cannot be explained to a 5 year old. But, how do you explain the logarithm to primary school students?
244
votes
33answers
32k 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} ...
21
votes
6answers
4k 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 ...
101
votes
6answers
152k views

How many sides does a circle have?

My son is in 2nd grade. His math teacher gave the class a quiz, and one question was this: If a triangle has 3 sides, and a rectangle has 4 sides, how many sides does a circle have? My first ...
17
votes
7answers
5k views

How to show every subgroup of a cyclic group is cyclic?

I'm teaching a group theory course now, and I wanted to give my students a proof that every subgroup of a cyclic group is cyclic. The easiest way I could think to do this is to say that any cyclic ...
15
votes
2answers
4k 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 ...
21
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
29
votes
8answers
5k views

How can I learn to “read maths” at a University level?

When I look at math, it's like my mind goes fuzzy. The only way to describe it is in terms of what I can relate it to. You know how when you read, you see the letters and words, but your brain picks ...
19
votes
4answers
5k 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, ...
14
votes
5answers
8k views

Which calculus text should I use for self-study?

I am 36 years old, and have forgotten a lot of math from high school, of which I only took up to Algebra 2. However I am teaching myself mathematics and am now, as an adult, completely fascinated ...
5
votes
4answers
840 views

Albert, Bernard and Cheryl popular question (Please comment on my theory)

Here is the problem, I think that there is one point that makes the question ambiguous, I think they should explicitly say the reason why Albert knows that Bernard does not know the date. Case 1: ...
10
votes
4answers
893 views

Is there a more efficient method of trig mastery than rote memorization?

I would like to get alot better at trig than I am. What is the best/most efficient method? Thanks much in advance Joe
9
votes
6answers
2k views

What is the best base to use?

When I typed this question in google I found this link: http://octomatics.org/ Just from the graphic point of view: this system seems to be easier (when he explains that you can overlap the line). He ...
87
votes
20answers
17k views

Visually deceptive “proofs” which are mathematically wrong

Related: Visually stunning math concepts which are easy to explain Beside the wonderful examples above, there should also be counterexamples, where visually intuitive demonstrations are actually ...
33
votes
7answers
3k views

What are some good math specific study habits?

What are/ were some of your good mathematician's study habits that you found really worked for you? I'm a CS major at a respected school and have a solid GPA... However, I definitely lack when it ...
50
votes
15answers
4k 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 ...
53
votes
14answers
8k views

Why do we need to learn integration techniques?

After a lifetime of approaching math the wrong way, I took two college math courses this quarter with a newfound zest for math. These classes are integral calc and multivariable calc. Integral calc ...
43
votes
25answers
8k 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: ...
41
votes
12answers
2k views

Examples of results failing in higher dimensions

A number of economists do not appreciate rigor in their usage of mathematics and I find it very discouraging. One of the examples of rigor-lacking approach are proofs done via graphs or pictures ...
23
votes
6answers
2k 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 ...
17
votes
4answers
2k views

Why do we need to learn Set Theory?

I was planning to write some article for the Mathematics magazine of our college and it occurred to me that it will be a good idea to write about the impact and importance of Set Theory. I plan ...
33
votes
7answers
2k views

Refuting the Anti-Cantor Cranks

I occasionally have the opportunity to argue with anti-Cantor cranks, people who for some reason or the other attack the validity of Cantor's diagonalization proof of the uncountability of the real ...
25
votes
9answers
8k views

What is the (mathematical) point of geometric constructions?

The ancient discipline of construction by straightedge and compass is both fascinating and entertaining. But what is its significance in a mathematical sense? It is still taught in high school ...
14
votes
6answers
4k 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 ...
13
votes
13answers
4k views

How to explain the formula for the sum of a geometric series without calculus?

How to explain to a middle-school student the notion of a geometric series without any calculus (i.e. limits)? For example I want to convince my student that $$1 + \frac{1}{4} + \frac{1}{4^2} + ...
9
votes
2answers
543 views

Is there any way to read articles without subscription?

This is not mathematician question but I think it's related. How I can get access to some of "Software: Practice and Experience" articles without subscription? Any advice is welcome. Sorry if I'm ...
6
votes
3answers
483 views

Why $\frac{1}{\infty } \approx 0 $ and $ \frac{1}{0} = {\infty}$?

First I have checked the search option but found nothing relevant to my problem and also level of math. I just started learning the language of mathematics, on my own and I have trouble understanding ...
5
votes
2answers
603 views

Factoring Quadratics: Asterisk Method

I'm teaching my students about factoring quadratics. We've done GCF, difference of two squares, squared binomials, and grouping. One of my colleagues then found this asterisk method on line. It's ...
3
votes
5answers
2k views

Where can I find a review of discrete math

I'm looking for course notes and assignments and hopefully some example exams for Discrete Math, I'm taking a placement exam in the subject after having taken it 4 years ago.
15
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
434 views

How to explain the commutativity of multiplication to middle school students?

It's easy for natural numbers: $3\times 5=5\times 3$ ***** ***** ***** but how do you explain that $x.y=y.x$ for any real numbers $x$ and $y$. Moreover, in $\Bbb{N}$, do you prefer to define ...
73
votes
15answers
15k views

Mathematical equivalent of Feynman's Lectures on Physics?

I'm slowly reading through Feynman's Lectures on Physics and I find myself wondering, is there an analogous book (or books) for math?
41
votes
13answers
4k views

Research done by high-school students

I'm giving a talk soon to a group of high-school students about open problems in mathematics that high-school students could understand. To inspire them, I would like to give them examples of ...
25
votes
4answers
5k 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 ...
87
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: $$ ...
25
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
9answers
7k 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 $\infty$? ...