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Category: Thoughts about maths thinking

Anything about the thinking processes required to learn and do maths, especially those about problem-solving and communicating.

The unexpected fear of statistics

Statistics is the cause of a lot of fear. There are thousandsĀ of students studying psychology, sociology, economics, biology, medicine, animal science and education who thought they would be free of mathematics and suddenly discover they have to deal with statistics. In the case of psychology it is absolutely everywhere: both in whole courses about statistics, […]

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Remainders remain a puzzle

My first post of 2018 is a record of some rambling thoughts about remainders. I may or may not come to a final moral here, so consider yourself warned.
What has prompted these ramblings today was reading this excellent post by Kristin Gray about her own thoughts on division and remainders. In that post, I saw […]

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The Arts students’ maths brain

Yesterday I talked about one of the common responses to people finding out I am a mathematician/maths teacher, that of saying, “I’m not a maths person.” The other common response I get is, “I don’t have a maths brain.” (John Rowe mentioned this in his comment on the previous post.)
This is how I reacted last […]

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Actually, I am a maths person

I am a mathematician and a maths teacher. Therefore it is an occupational hazard that any random person who finds out what my job is will respond with “I’m not a maths person.” The most frustrating people are my own students who I am trying to tell that my actual job is to help them […]

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Childhood memories

Two books I’ve read recently have encouraged me to investigate my memories from childhood. In Tracy Zager’s “Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had“, she urged me to think about my maths autobiography to see what influenced my current feelings about maths. In Stuart Brown’s “Play“, he urged me to think about my play […]

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Money and me

In the online resources for Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had, Tracy Zager provides information about the benefits of writing a “math autobiography”. I really have tried to do this, but I am having a lot of trouble organising my thoughs and memories. However, I reckon I can track some of my memories […]

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Finding an inverse function

There is a procedure that people use and teach students to use for finding the inverse of a function. It goes like this (this image comes from page 10 of this document from Edexcel, but this pic is from Jo Morgan’s blog where I first saw it):

My problem with this is that it doesn’t make […]

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How I choose which trig substitution to do

What trig subsitution is
Trig substitution is a fancy kind of substitution used to help find the integral of a particular family of fancy functions. These fancy functions involve things like a2 + x2 or a2 – x2 or x2 – a2 , usually under root signs or inside half-powers, and the purpose of trig substitution […]

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Holding the other parts constant: it’s everywhere!

It seems like ages ago — but it was only yesterday — that I wrote about differentiating functions with the variable in both the base and the power. Back there, I had learned that the derivative of a function like f(x)g(x) is the sum of the derivative when you pretend f(x) is constant and the […]

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Problem strings and using the chain rule with functions defined as integrals

In Maths 1A here at the University of Adelaide, they learn the following theorem (this is taken from the lecture notes written by the School of Maths here):

It says that, given a function of x defined as the integral of an original function from a constant to x, when you differentiate it you get the […]

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