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Topic: fuzziness & multiple meanings
Replies: 1   Last Post: Aug 6, 1997 11:55 AM

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Ladnor Geissinger

Posts: 55
Registered: 12/4/04
fuzziness & multiple meanings
Posted: Aug 6, 1997 11:11 AM
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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

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

Ladnor Geissinger
Math Prof at UNC Chapel Hill & Math Chair at IAT
phone: 919-405-1925
address: Institute for Academic Technology
2525 Meridian Parkway, Suite 400
Durham NC 27713 USA
IAT phone: 919-560-5031
IAT fax: 919-560-5047
IAT web home page:
LEARN NC home page:
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