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Questions tagged [algebra-precalculus]

For questions about algebra and precalculus topics, which include linear, exponential, logarithmic, polynomial, rational and trigonometric functions, conic sections, binomial, surds, graphs and transformations of graphs, solving equations and systems of equations and other symbolic-manipulation topics.

946
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31answers
133k 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 will ...
467
votes
10answers
470k views

Is this Batman equation for real? [closed]

HardOCP has an image with an equation which apparently draws the Batman logo. Is this for real? Batman Equation in text form: \begin{align} &\left(\left(\frac x7\right)^2\sqrt{\frac{||x|-3|}{|x|-...
343
votes
33answers
42k 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} \mathrel{\...
310
votes
24answers
33k views

Zero to the zero power – is $0^0=1$?

Could someone provide me with a 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: $0^0\cdot0^x=1\cdot0^0$, so $0^0=1$ $...
267
votes
26answers
41k views

Is it true that $0.999999999\dots=1$?

I'm told by smart people that $$0.999999999\dots=1$$ and I believe them, but is there a proof that explains why this is?
256
votes
21answers
31k 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 ...
182
votes
9answers
8k 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 ...
170
votes
20answers
13k 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 ...
151
votes
23answers
12k 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 interpretation ...
143
votes
10answers
10k 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}} &...
132
votes
17answers
13k views

What actually is a polynomial?

I know how to do operations on polynomials. I can add, subtract, multiply, and divide. I can solve for the zeroes of polynomials, I can recognize polynomials (for the most part), but I can't define ...
124
votes
13answers
236k views

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

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 three equations: one for each ...
115
votes
25answers
18k 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 $ . ...
114
votes
17answers
9k views

Division by $0$

I came up some definitions I have sort of difficulty to distinguish. In parentheses are my questions. $\dfrac {x}{0}$ is Impossible ( If it's impossible it can't have neither infinite solutions or ...
113
votes
40answers
51k views

Why is negative times negative = positive?

Someone recently asked me why a negative $\times$ a negative is positive, and why a negative $\times$ a positive is negative, etc. I went ahead and gave them a proof by contradiction like so: Assume ...
112
votes
5answers
29k 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 \sum_{n=0}^{\...
101
votes
9answers
8k views

Division by $0$ and its restrictions

Consider the following expression: $$\frac{1}{2} \div \frac{4}{x}$$ Over here, one would state the restriction as $x \neq 0 $, as that would result in division by $0$. But if we rearrange the ...
98
votes
13answers
9k 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 ...
94
votes
12answers
12k 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: $$ \frac{1}...
90
votes
14answers
6k 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: $$-1= (-1)^3 = (-1)^{6/2} = \sqrt{(-1)^6}= 1?$$
89
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. $3883544142410_{10}=...
88
votes
15answers
21k 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 ...
87
votes
14answers
9k 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 ...
85
votes
17answers
55k 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 ...
84
votes
6answers
6k 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, $$1=\frac{1}{2-1}=\frac{1}{2-\cfrac{1}{2-1}}=\frac{1}{2-\cfrac{1}{2-\cfrac{1}{2-1}}}=\cfrac{1}{2-\...
83
votes
30answers
170k views

Proof for formula for sum of sequence $1+2+3+\ldots+n$?

Apparently $1+2+3+4+\ldots+n = \dfrac{n\times(n+1)}2$. How? What's the proof? Or maybe it is self apparent just looking at the above? PS: This problem is know as "The sum of the first $n$ positive ...
82
votes
12answers
24k views

Olympiad Inequality $\sum\limits_{cyc} \frac{x^4}{8x^3+5y^3} \geqslant \frac{x+y+z}{13}$

$x,y,z >0$, prove $$\frac{x^4}{8x^3+5y^3}+\frac{y^4}{8y^3+5z^3}+\frac{z^4}{8z^3+5x^3} \geqslant \frac{x+y+z}{13}$$ Note: Often Stack Exchange asked to show some work before answering the ...
74
votes
13answers
8k 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 ...
73
votes
15answers
16k views

I don't understand the homework of my little sister - do you?

She visits third class and is $8$ years old (you can imagine how ashamed I felt when I said so to her). I helped her with lots of maths stuff today already but this is very unknowable for me. Sorry it'...
70
votes
14answers
6k 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. ...
68
votes
14answers
64k 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 ...
68
votes
5answers
4k 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 ...
66
votes
7answers
22k views

$\infty = -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 \...
66
votes
15answers
33k views

Prove if $n^2$ is even, then $n$ is even.

I am just learning maths, and would like someone to verify my proof. Suppose $n$ is an integer, and that $n^2$ is even. If we add $n$ to $n^2$, we have $n^2 + n = n(n+1)$, and it follows that $n(n+1)...
65
votes
7answers
22k views

$\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\cdots}}}}}$ approximation [closed]

Is there any trick to evaluate this or this is an approximation, I mean I am not allowed to use calculator. $$\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\sqrt{7\cdots}}}}}$$
65
votes
7answers
6k views

Do there exist pairs of distinct real numbers whose arithmetic, geometric and harmonic means are all integers?

I self-realized an interesting property today that all numbers $(a,b)$ belonging to the infinite set $$\{(a,b): a=(2l+1)^2, b=(2k+1)^2;\ l,k \in N;\ l,k\geq1\}$$ have their AM and GM both integers. ...
64
votes
14answers
14k 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 ...
63
votes
18answers
13k views

Prove $0! = 1$ from first principles

How can I prove from first principles that $0!$ is equal to $1$?
62
votes
24answers
17k views

How would you explain to a 9th grader the negative exponent rule?

Let us assume that the students haven't been exposed to these two rules: $a^{x+y} = a^{x}a^{y}$ and $\frac{a^x}{a^y} = a^{x-y}$. They have just been introduced to the generalization: $a^{-x} = \frac{1}...
61
votes
17answers
14k 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 ...
61
votes
11answers
5k 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 ...
60
votes
13answers
16k views

Why does $\frac{1}{x} < 4$ have two answers?

Solving $\frac{1}{x} < 4$ gives me $x > \frac{1}{4}$. The book however states the answer is: $x < 0$ or $x > \frac{1}{4}$. My questions are: Why does this inequality has two answers (...
59
votes
4answers
44k views

What is the term for a factorial type operation, but with summation instead of products? [duplicate]

(Pardon if this seems a bit beginner, this is my first post in math - trying to improve my knowledge while tackling Project Euler problems) I'm aware of Sigma notation, but is there a function/name ...
59
votes
15answers
7k 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 ...
59
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
58
votes
12answers
33k views

Proving $1^3+ 2^3 + \cdots + n^3 = \left(\frac{n(n+1)}{2}\right)^2$ using induction

How can I prove that $$1^3+ 2^3 + \cdots + n^3 = \left(\frac{n(n+1)}{2}\right)^2$$ for all $n \in \mathbb{N}$? I am looking for a proof using mathematical induction. Thanks
57
votes
12answers
8k views

What is the definition of a set?

From what I have been told, everything in mathematics has a definition and everything is based on the rules of logic. For example, whether or not $0^0$ is $1$ is a simple matter of definition. My ...
56
votes
12answers
6k 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 ...
56
votes
15answers
9k views

Is it possible to have three real numbers that have both their sum and product equal to $1$?

I have to solve $ x+y+z=1$ and $xyz=1$ for a set of $(x, y, z)$. Are there any such real numbers? Edit : What if $x+y+z=xyz=r$, $r$ being an arbitrary real number. Will it still be possible to find ...
56
votes
7answers
7k views

Can we calculate $ i\sqrt { i\sqrt { i\sqrt { \cdots } } }$?

It might be obvious that $2\sqrt { 2\sqrt { 2\sqrt { 2\sqrt { 2\sqrt { 2\sqrt { \cdots } } } } } } $ equals $4.$ So what about $i\sqrt { i\sqrt { i\sqrt { i\sqrt { i\sqrt { i\sqrt { \cdots } } } } } } ...