See also the
Dr. Math FAQ:
why study math?
3D and higher
Browse Middle 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?
- Percent Increase and "Increase by a Factor of ..." [08/01/2006]
If we start with 1 apple today and tomorrow have 2 apples, then we have
a 100 percent increase. But can't I also say there was an increase by a
factor of 2?
- Plural and Derivation of 'Hypotenuse' [5/16/1996]
What's the plural of hypotenuse?
- Point and Line [04/07/2001]
How does something without dimension create something with dimension?
- 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?
- 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?
- Ratios and Proportions in Everyday Life [05/13/2002]
How are ratios and proportions used in everyday life?
- Representing a Number [10/29/2001]
How can you represent the number three without using any letters or
variables or the digits 1 through 9?
- Rhumb Lines and Great Circle Routes [09/24/1998]
Can you explain great circles and rhumb lines and how they relate to
shortest distances in geometry?
- Science or Art? [05/29/2001]
Is math a science or an art?
- The Second Millennium [11/29/1999]
Does the second millennium begin with the year 2000 or the year 2001? How
does this relate to the math of counting numbers and subtraction?
- Slide Rules [03/13/1999]
Can you help me learn how to use a slide rule?
- Solve a Simpler Problem [09/25/2000]
What day of the week is the 3,824th day after Wednesday? How will this
help me in life?
- Solving Problems Without Paper [9/1/1995]
I'm in 7th grade and I'm having trouble solving problems in my head
instead of on paper. Do you have some ideas on what will help me?
- Struggling with Math [3/26/1996]
What should I do?
- Talking About Zero, Absolute Zero and Negative Numbers [11/12/2003]
Are there any useful strategies other than temperature to introduce
negative numbers, and also to teach about zero, its properties, and
how they differ from those of absolute zero?
- Teaching the Concept/Meaning of Sum [10/23/2001]
To me "the answer to an addition problem or equation" is not a true or
necessarily useful definition. I define the sum as the whole or total...
- Times Greater Than, Times As Much As [05/02/1999]
A number is five times greater than x. Will this number be 6x or 5x?
- Tips for Studying [06/02/2001]
I'm in grade 8, so this is the first year of exams for me and I don't
know how to study.
- Tricks for Solving Math Problems [9/27/1995]
Do you know any tricks for working math problems quickly?
- Types of Numbers [10/30/1998]
How are the different types of numbers related? For example, what about
counting, whole, rational, irrational, integers, prime, ... ?
- Undefined Geometry Terms [09/16/2001]
I know that they call point, line, and plane the undefined terms of
geometry, but is there a way to give those terms a definition?
- Understanding Graphs [10/30/2002]
How do we use algebra or graphs in real life?
- Use of Math in Various Careers [11/06/2004]
Just briefly, how is math related to history, poly sci, visual
communications, business, and psychology? I am giving a persuasive
speech to a group of college freshmen and I want to make them realize
how important it is to have math in their background.
- What Are Variables For? [02/09/2001]
Why is it important to be able to figure out the values of variables?
- What Do Parentheses Mean? [08/15/2002]
Can you help me find ways to figure out what parentheses mean?
- What If There Was No Zero? [10/21/2003]
Why did it take so long to discover zero? Why did early civilizations
not need zero? How would math as we know it be different if there was
- What is an Algorithm? [10/21/2001]
Please define and explain algorithm, and include an example.
- What is Math? [10/04/1997]
Is math a science, an art, or some other anomaly?
- What is Math? [09/14/2001]
Mathematics as the study of abstractions.
- What is Mathematical Modeling? [11/08/2002]
I am looking for documentation that would describe the difference
between calculations and mathematical modeling.
- What is Mathematics? [09/22/2000]
Please tell me the definition of maths.
- What is Trigonometry? [8/20/1996]
What is trigonometry, and what is it used for?
- When Do We Need to Know Roman Numerals? [08/26/2003]
I have a student who does not see how learning Roman numerals will
benefit her. What advice can you give her to make this learning
experience more relevant to her life and needs?
- When is the expression Q.E.D. used? [02/15/1999]
More on Q.E.D.
- Who Invented Binary? [05/07/2000]
Who invented the binary system of numbers and when was it developed?
- Who uses Calculus? [12/13/1995]
I was wondering how calculus is used: what professions, in what
- Why Does Order of Operations Work the Way It Does? [05/04/2004]
What is the logic behind order of operations? Why do exponents come
before the other operations, and why does multiplication and division
come before addition and subtraction? How was this all decided?
- Why Do We Have to Study Math in School? [02/25/2005]
A freshman in high school questions the point of learning lots of math
that he will never use in real life, and Dr. Ian replies with some
interesting thoughts about the benefits of studying math.
- Why Do We Like Math? [3/25/1996]
Why do you like math so much? I find it to be a real pain and kind of
- Why Do We Need to Study Rational Numbers? [04/22/2008]
My students want to know why they need to know what rational numbers
are and what use they have in the real world.