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Topic: Which Polynomial?
Replies: 28   Last Post: Jul 27, 2006 3:13 PM

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Kirby Urner

Posts: 4,713
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Which Polynomial?
Posted: Jul 31, 2005 11:28 AM
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> At 07:25 PM 7/30/2005, Kirby Urner wrote:

> Uh... no more so than the pronunciation of the plural
> of "fungus". You may be a fun guy, Kirby, but you're
> wrong on this one.


If a student says FIE, no corrective need be issued. It's an English word, even if also ancient greek, and FIE *is* one of the correct pronunciations. I've established this to my complete satisfaction.

> >More to the point, some authoritative texts insist
> >the greek letter tau is more normally used to signify
> >1.618... and phi its reciprocal (0.618...). That's
> >precisely the opposite convention from what I favor.
> >[1]

>
> This is so superficial, it is not deserving of your
> attention. I'd put it even lower in priority than
> maintaining the mx+b fake convention.


Or how about using 'theta' for angles. Here's a passage I think sums it up for *so many* ethnomathematical conventions:

"""
By the way, the lower case Greek [epsilon] is traditionally used to denote a small positive quantity, or more precisely, a positive quantity which becomes interesting when it happens to be small. Of course, "traditionally" means little more than "habitually" in this context, and you are not breaking any law if you use [epsilon] to mean a negative quantity, or a large positive number. However, you are likely to test your friendships if you do that.[1]
"""

People have since time immemorial used notation to signal with which community they want to be associated e.g. that of Newton or that of Leibniz. Sometimes we lie to kids and tell 'em math ain't political, ain't ethno. Such lies are the hallmark of immature curricula.

Great ideas have a way of transcending petty politics, sure, but that's no insurance against petty politicians getting their hooks in anyway, trying to make an issue out of 'y = mx + b' or whatever it may be.

Likewise in CS, we have all these self-appointed "language warriors" who think their mission in life is to stomp on any language they don't already know.

> >Mathematics is just *full* of these little cultural
> >contingencies. Sigh. Let's go back to teaching at
> >least the greek letters, along with those silly Roman
> >numerals.

>
> True enough. At least, we should get past alpha, pi
> and theta (and, for some of us, epsilon and delta :-))
>
> VS-)


The above-cited text helpfully gives the upper and lower case greek letters in the front matter (though without their unicode equivalents).

Kirby

[1] Geoff Smith. Introductory Mathematics: Algebra and Analysis (Springer, 1998), pg. 5.



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