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Dr. Math FAQ:
why study math?
Browse High School About Math
Stars indicate particularly interesting answers or
good places to begin browsing.
Selected answers to common questions:
Art and mathematics.
Law and mathematics.
Medicine and mathematics.
Music and mathematics.
Poetry and mathematics.
What is mathematics?
Was math invented or discovered?
- Math and the Law [11/24/1998]
Examples of how mathematics is used by lawyers to win cases.
- Math and the Piano [09/27/1998]
How is math is related to the piano? What about tempo, pitch, and tuning?
- The Math Behind Music: Pitches, Scales, Geometry [12/03/1997]
Connections between music, physics, and math.
- Mathematical Models [07/17/2002]
What is a mathematical model, and how would it be used?
- Mathematics and Philosophy [6/5/1996]
I was wondering if mathematicians viewed mathematics as being
'transcendental' of the universe.
- Mathematics As Analogy [12/16/2003]
How can the ratio of a finite circumference to a finite diameter give
an infinite value for pi?
- Mathematics, Logic, and Intuition [05/27/2003]
How is math related to logic and intuition?
- Math for a Future in the Sciences [02/08/2001]
I want to be able to understand as much math as possible and keep this
information with me for the rest of my life, but once I learn something,
I forget it quickly...
- Math in Dance [09/30/2001]
Can you explain possible ways that math and dance could be related?
- Math in Electrical Engineering [05/01/2003]
What math is involved in electrical engineering?
- Math in Everyday Life [09/22/2000]
I need to write a story about all the ways in which math relates to
everyday life over the course of one day. Could you help me with some
- Math in Everyday Life [10/17/2002]
How do you use math in your everyday life?
- Math in the Real World [2/19/1996]
I would like to know some examples of mathematical applications in the
- Math Invented or Discovered? [10/26/1999]
Did man create all math? If man created math, then all math can be
manipulated, and it is whatever we want it to be, right?
- Math is Power? [03/13/2003]
What do people mean when they say that 'math is power'?
- Math Symbols [04/07/1997]
What do the common math symbols (backward E, upside-down A, etc.) mean?
- Math Used Every Day [11/20/2001]
What type of math do I use every day?
- Meaning of the Phrase: Divide by Zero. [01/02/1998]
I want to use 'divide by zero' to indicate a physically impossible task.
What does the phrase actually mean?
- Meanings of Math Symbols [06/19/1997]
In math notation, what do the vertical bar, the colon, and the solid
black square (at the end of a proof) mean?
- Mod Function and Negative Numbers [04/28/2000]
What is the correct value for the function MOD(-340,60)? Microsoft Excel
returns the value 20, while Lotus 1-2-3 returns the value -40. Can you
explain the difference?
- More on Order of Operations [02/13/2000]
I have found contradictory information on the precedence of the
multiplication and division operations. Is there a universally accepted
rule for the order of these operations?
- Multiple Solutions [02/08/2002]
Why is there more than one way of doing one type of math problem?
- The New Math [07/05/2000]
What is the "New Math?"
- Non-terminating Decimal Representations of Fractions [11/10/1997]
Why when you take a finite, limited quantity like one-third and turn it
into a decimal do you get .333... on into infinity?
- The Orphaned Brace [03/04/2010]
Why do mathematicians format systems of equations with a single, unpaired brace?
- Perfect Numbers [11/10/1997]
Do the sums of the digits of perfect numbers always equal 1?
- Philosophy of the Truths of Mathematics [02/28/2001]
Do the truths of math hold in any conceivable world?
- Philosophy, Probably [07/27/2014]
A philosophy student seeks a mathematical way to evaluate ontology, which he has
modeled with zero, one, and one-half. Doctor Douglas suggests probability.
- Point and Line [04/07/2001]
How does something without dimension create something with dimension?
- Possible Proof That 1 + 1 Does Not Equal 2 [04/19/2001]
I just want verification... would this proof work?
- Precedence of Unary Operators [09/01/99]
The PEMDAS rule for order of operations ignores unary operators. Can you
explain the proper precedence for them, and give an example showing how
not knowing the rule can cause an incorrect result?
- Preparing for a Math Olympiad [12/25/2000]
I want to be a candidate for the International Math Olympiad, and so I
have to push way past the subjects covered in class. Do you have any
ideas on how I could efficiently "reach the top?"
- Project Ideas [06/30/2002]
Can you suggest any science projects involving math and the stock
- Proofs and Reasons [06/18/2002]
What's the difference between a 'proof' and a 'reason'?
- Properties? Axioms? What to Call Characteristics of Field, and When [07/14/2014]
An adult finds inconsistent labels for the characteristics of fields and rings. Doctor
Peterson explains how different levels of abstraction warrant different vocabulary.
- Proving Theorems, Playing Chess, and Remembering Parts [11/23/2013]
Like grandmasters do with chess moves, do mathematicians remember chains of reasoning from one long proof so that they can re-purpose and apply them when proving others? Doctor Ian responds with a number theory example to underscore that memory matters less than insight.
- Publishing a Conjecture or Proof, from Due Diligence to Final Publication [06/16/2011]
Does the mathematics community maintain a list of conjectures? or follow some
established protocol for submitting new ones? Doctor Vogler explains why no single
such collection exists, then outlines the process for vetting and publishing original work.
- Quadratic Formula: Solve for b [08/15/2001]
How do you solve for b in the quadratic formula?
- Questions About Math [07/31/1999]
Why was the Cartesian plane invented? Were the more abstract branches of
math developed just for fun? What is chaos theory? Why isn't Einstein's
equation e = mc^3?
- Real Life Uses of Quadratic Equations [06/13/2002]
When would you solve a quadratic equation in real life?