I have to put this one up at least twice a year, so here it is again.

Here is another horror which I found recently:

The distributive law of addition: a(b + c) = ab + ac (OK, it’s a definition)

The current school math explanation:

You take the a and distribute it to the b to get ab

and then you distribute the a to the c to get ac

and then you add them together to get ab + ac

I have come across this explanation in several places, and once again real damage is done to the language, and real confusion sown. “Distribute” means “to spread or share out” as in “The Arts Council distributed its funds unevenly, as usual. Opera got the lion’s share.” So it is NOT the a that is distributed. I tried to find a definition of the term in wordy form as it applies to algebra systems but failed. Heavy thinking produced the “answer”. What is being distributed is…

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