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fuzziness & multiple meanings
Posted:
Aug 6, 1997 11:11 AM


We've heard laments about multiple meanings of the minus sign  implying I suppose that it causes problems for students learning math. But there are other abbreviations and notations, and ways of talking about what they stand for in elementary math, that perhaps cause much more serious educational problems. What do you think about the following?
1 Dropping the sign for multiplication (*) between two numerical expressions or between a number and a variable name and depending on a space or juxtaposition or a fence (parens, brackets, braces, etc) as an implicit indicator of multiplication. We don't do this with +, , or /. Of course once we understand the math we can abbreviate, depend on rules of precedence, etc to make our expressions as short as possible  but should we do this for students while they're learning the maths?
2 What about the multiple meanings and fuzziness associated with use (overuse?) of = and talk about "equations"? How can students make useful and reasonable sense of this? Do some of the textbooks point out these things?
Ladnor Geissinger Math Prof at UNC Chapel Hill & Math Chair at IAT email: ladnor.iat@mhs.unc.edu or ladnor_geissinger@unc.edu phone: 9194051925 address: Institute for Academic Technology 2525 Meridian Parkway, Suite 400 Durham NC 27713 USA IAT phone: 9195605031 IAT fax: 9195605047 IAT web home page: www.iat.unc.edu LEARN NC home page: www.learnnc.org Mathwright Library: ike.engr.washington.edu/mathwright/



