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Pronumerals

Date: 05/14/2002 at 22:52:34
From: Amar
Subject: pronumeral

Hi,
What is a pronumeral? I cannot find the answer anywhere. 
Thanks.


Date: 05/15/2002 at 09:33:09
From: Doctor Peterson
Subject: Re: pronumeral

Hi, Amar.

I'd never heard this term used, though I could easily imagine what it 
would mean: the math equivalent of a pronoun, a word like "it" that 
takes the place of a specific noun (like "dog"). So a pronumeral 
would simply be a letter used in an equation to stand for a number, 
which we more often call a variable. (The difference appears to be 
that "variable" is sometimes taken to imply that the value can 
change, whereas a "pronumeral" may also be a "constant", an 
unspecified value that is not considered to be changing. For most 
purposes, this distinction is not important.) 

I did a Google search for the word, and most of the sites that use it 
are Australian, so it must be popular in the Australian educational 
community. It sounds like it may have been introduced elsewhere but 
did not catch on in most of the world:

    http://www.fractions-plus.com/Ord%20Alg/Variables.rtf

    Names of numbers are called numerals, while names for
    ordinary objects are called nouns.  One mathematics project
    referred to variables as pronumerals in order to stress
    that the letters used in algebra are like pronouns.  If you
    are grammatically inclined, think "pronumeral" when you
    see the word "variable".  Just as pronoun may refer to a
    person in general rather than to some specific person, a
    variable may refer to a number in general rather than to
    some specific number.

Here is one Australian site that defines the term:

    http://www.maths.adelaide.edu.au/MLC/MathsBridge/Topics/Algebra/
      Pronumerals/use.htm

I didn't find any sites that clearly distinguish "pronumeral" 
from "variable", just several that say you are supposed to know both 
terms.

- Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum
  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ 
Associated Topics:
High School Definitions
Middle School Definitions
Middle School Number Sense/About Numbers

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