# Category Archives: arithmetic

## What exactly is Base 10 arithmetic ?

Teacher: “Now we’re going to learn about base 10 arithmetic”.
Wise guy: “Is that where 3 + 4 = 12, or is it where 3 x 4 = 12 ?”.

I did a search on the net and found the term “base 10” all over the place. What does it mean?

An apparently annoying question:
“Does the 1 in 10 stand for the number 10’s in 10?”.

The interpretation of 10 in the system described as “Base 10” depends on the base of the system, so what is it? How do I find out?

We have here a logical problem. The term “Base 10” as a definition is self referential. It is more subtle than this definition of a straight line:

“A straight line is a line which is straight”.

The problem arises from the almost universal confusion between the two things:
1: The name of a number, in this case “ten” is supposedly implied
2: The symbols representing a number, in this case 10 in the base ten system”

So the answers to the questions “What is it? How do I find out?” above are “Unknown” and “You can’t”

Writing “Base 10” when you mean “Base ten” is probably the first step in making math meaningless.

Filed under abstract, arithmetic, confusion, definitions, language in math, math, teaching

## A. N. Whitehead on negative numbers (1911)

This is really worth reading. It is from his book, “Introduction to Mathematics”, published in 1911.

whitehead intro to math negative nos

Filed under abstract, arithmetic, Number systems, teaching, Uncategorized

## More on √2 – Common Crappiness Simply Seen (CCSS)

It’s strange how one can read something many times and miss the complete stupidity of it, in math at any rate.
This is from the CCSSM Grade 8:
The Number System 8.NS (Grade 8)
Know that there are numbers that are not rational, and approximate
them by rational numbers.
2. Use rational approximations of irrational numbers to compare the size
of irrational numbers, locate them approximately on a number line
diagram, and estimate the value of expressions (e.g., π2). For example,
by truncating the decimal expansion of √2, show that √2 is between 1 and
2, then between 1.4 and 1.5, and explain how to continue on to get better
approximations.

I need an approximation to √2. Just get me the decimal expansion, please. Oh, and I need it to 73 decimal places.

Do I have to explain to the authors of this garbage that the only way I am going to get anywhere with √2 is by a process of successive approximation, NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND ! !

And just try doing this for pi.

“I know that there are irrational numbers”. “How do you know that?”. “Because my teacher told me”.

And where will I encounter π2 ? Or “estimate the value of pi-e”.

And when we get to High School we find:

Use properties of rational and irrational numbers.
3. Explain why the sum or product of two rational numbers is rational;
that the sum of a rational number and an irrational number is irrational;
and that the product of a nonzero rational number and an irrational
number is irrational.

I find real difficulties explaining the last point.

I am not proposing that we go as far as Cauchy Sequences or Dedekind cuts, but if they cannot do a better job than this the topic is best stopped at “√2 is irrational and here’s why”. How many students can prove that √2+√3 is irrational?

Filed under arithmetic, confusion, irrational numbers

## Gross misuse of + and – and x and the one that’s not on my keyboard

Arithmetic is the art of processing numbers.
We have ADD, SUBTRACT, MULTPLY and DIVIDE
In ordinary language these words are verbs which have a direct object and an indirect object.

“Add the OIL to the EGG YOLKS one drop at a time”.
“To find the net return subtract the COSTS from the GROSS INCOME”.

In math things have got confused.
We can say “add 3 to 4″or we can say “add 3 and 4”.
We can say “multiply 3 by 4” or we can say “multiply 3 and 4”.
At least we don’t have that choice with subtract or divide.

The direct + indirect form actually means something with the words used,
but when I see “add 3 and 4” my little brain says “add to what?”.

There are perfectly good ways of saying “add, or multiply, 3 and 4” which do not force meanings and usages onto words that never asked for them.
“Find the sum of 3 and 4” and “Find the product of 3 and 4” are using the correct mathematical words, which have moved on from “add” and “multiply”, and incorporate the two commutative laws.

If we were to view operations with numbers as actions, so that an operation such as “add” has a number attached to it, eg “add 7”, then meaningful arithmetical statements can be made, like

which with the introduction of the symbols “+” and “-“, used as in the statement above allows the symbolic expression 3+5+8-4+1 to have a completely unambiguous meaning. It uses the “evaluate from left to right” convention of algebra, and does not rely on any notion of “binary operation” or “properties of operations”.

If we want to view “+” as a binary operation, with two inputs then, yes, we can ascribe meaning to “3+4”, but not in horrors such as the following (found in the CCSSM document):

To add 2 + 6 + 4, the second two numbers can be added to make a ten,
so 2 + 6 + 4 = 2 + 10 = 12. (Associative property of addition.)

If + is a binary operation, which are the two inputs for the first occurrence of + and which are the inputs for the second occurrence of + ?
The combination of symbols 2 + 6 + 4 has NO MEANING in the world of binary operations.

See A. N. Whitehead in “Introduction to Mathematics” 1911.
here are the relevant pages:

And here are two more delights from the CCSSM document
subtract 10 – 8
add 3/10 + 4/100 = 34/100

In addition I would happily replace the term “algebraic thinking” in grades 1-5 by”muddled thinking”.

## Subtraction and the “standard” algorithm

CCSSM talks about “the standard algorithm” but doesn’t define it – Oh, how naughty, done on purpose I suspect, since there are varieties even of the  “American Standard Algorithm”. Besides, if it is not defined it cannot be tested (one hopes!). I checked some internet teaching stuff on it, and as presented it won’t work on for example 403 – 227 without modification.

Anyway, I was thinking about subtraction the other day (really, have you nothing better to think about?), and concluded that subtraction is easiest if the first number ends in all 9’s or the second number ends in all 0’s. So, fix it then, I thought, change the problem, and here are the results

.

I am quite sure that some of you can extract the general rule in each case, and see that it works the same in all positions.

“If I understand subtraction, and can explain the ideas to another, and I learn the standard algorithm and how to apply it, and I have faith in it based on experience, WHY THE HELL DO I HAVE TO BE ABLE TO EXPLAIN IT?”

I guess this post counts as a rant!

Filed under arithmetic, math, operations, subtraction, teaching

## Egyptian fractions

I found this on Quora. What would the standard algorithm be, I wonder.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………
David Joyce, Professor of Mathematics at Clark Uni… (more)

Suppose you have five loaves of bread and you want to divide them evenly among seven people.  You could cut the five loaves in thirds, then you’d have 15 thirds.  Give two of them to each of the seven people.  You’ll have one third of a loaf left.  Cut it into seven equal slices and give one to each person.

There may be other solutions.   a = b = 3, c = 21.   (Egyptian Fractions)

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

Filed under arithmetic, fractions, math, operations

## Fractional doggerel – verse problem

Mary’s mother brought a pizza
For her little kiddies, two.
“Johnny, you can have threequarters.
Mary, just a half will do.”.

Then the kiddies started eating.
Soon Mary grabbed her final piece.
“That’s mine” screamed Johnny, then the fighting
Broke the tranquil mealtime peace.

How much pizza then was eaten?
How much pizza on the floor?
Mother swore and left the building.
“I should have ordered just one more”.

1 Comment

Filed under arithmetic, fractions, humor, language in math, verse

## Another Common Core Math Horror

I thought I had found them all, but NO.

————-
Kindergarten
Operations and Algebraic Thinking
• Understand addition as putting together and adding to, and understand subtraction as taking apart and taking from.
————-
What has subtraction got to do with taking apart ???
(The examples are all of the form 9 = 3 + 6 and so on).

Also there is NO mention at all of subtraction as a way of finding the difference between two numbers, or of finding the larger of two numbers (anywhere).

While I am in critical mode I offer two more, less awful, horrors from Grade 1:

“To add 2 + 6 + 4,…”  and  “For example, subtract 10 – 8″.

The poor symbols are clearly in great pain at this point. Just read aloud exactly what is written…..

Filed under algebra, arithmetic, language in math, operations, teaching

## Memorization versus Number Sense

This is a link to a post by WatsonMath about Stanford Professor Jo Boaler and her thoughts, opinions and research backed statements of the counterproductive combination of “learn your tables” and “take this (yet another !) timed test on them”.

Definitely worth reading, and worth passing on as well.

http://www.watsonmath.com/2015/02/07/jo-boaler-fluency-without-fear/

1 Comment

Filed under arithmetic, education, math, teaching

## Commutative, distributive, illustrative-ly

Here they all are, apart from associative, as it belongs to algebra.