Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wearing Pants

In math, we...
  • use letters at the end of the alphabet to denote variables, at the beginning of the alphabet to denote constants, and in the middle of the alphabet to denote whole number increments.
  • call 1/2 simplified, 2/4 unsimplified, and 4/3 improper.
  • multiply before adding.
  • avoid fractions like $\frac{2.5}{3\frac{1}{2}}$
  • use x * and ()() to mean the same thing
  • use x to represent the horizontal axis and y to represent the vertical axis
  • drop the multiplication symbol when multiplying numbers by variables
  • write 2N instead of N2
and so on and so forth.

It's important to remember that these are all conventions, not fundamental axioms handed down on stone tablets by the gods of mathematics.

Sort of like wearing pants. The world wouldn't come to an end if you stopped wearing pants tomorrow, but you might get some funny looks, you might not be taken seriously, and it might be more difficult to communicate with others.

2 comments:

  1. Are there Fundamentalist fanatics in mathematics?

    Jest asking ...

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  2. Nice analogy. I tried teaching it as a 'style' thing using the (lack of) style at the recent Royal Wedding as the analogy. Seemed to work :-) http://exzuberant.blogspot.com/2011/05/algebra-with-style-or-how-to-get-royal.html I will try your 'wearing pants' for variation - will get a good laugh.

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