Who needs LCM ?

First, three views of LCM with no comments :

### 3: The GCF and LCM are the underlying concepts for finding equivalent fractions and adding and subtracting fractions, which students will do later.

Now we can do fraction addition without LCM. It just needs the use of the distributive law, and the result shows the way in which the divisors combine.

And now using 3/4

But the best one is via multiplication ……

Now for multiplication and division.

Filed under algebra, arithmetic, fractions, Uncategorized

## 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

## 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”.

## 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

## The Future

“She’s doing well. She’s 8 now. She’s in Grade 3. She really enjoys the Pre-Algebra and the Pre-Textual Analysis.”.

Filed under algebra, education, language in math, teaching

## The Distributive Law, again !

The formal statement of the distributive law should read as follows:

If a, b, c and d are numbers, or algebraic expressions (same thing really) and b = c + d then ab = ac + ad

It is a by-product of the law that it tells you how to expand an expression with a bracketed factor.

In any case, what’s the big deal ?

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

## More bad language in math

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 the second factor on the left.
Example:
Take 3 x 7. We know that the value of this is 21
Distribute, or spread out, the 7 as 2 + 5 . . . . . . . . the b + c
Then 3 x (2 + 5) has the value 21
But so does 3 x 2 + 3 x 5. To check, get out the blocks !
So 3 x (2 + 5) = 3 x 2 + 3 x 5 ……… The Law !

Regarding the “second” version of the distributive property, a(b – c) = ab – ac, this cannot just be stated, and you won’t find it in any abstract algebra texts. Since the students are looking at this before they have encountered the signed number system, a proof must not involve negative numbers, as a, b and c are all natural numbers. It can be done, and here it is:

set b – c equal to w (why not!)
then b = c + w
multiply both sides by a
ab = a(c + w)
expand the right hand side by the distributive law
ab = ac + aw
subtract ac from both sides
ab – ac = aw
replace w by b – c, and then
ab – ac = a(b – c)
done !

Filed under abstract, arithmetic, language in math, teaching

## Subtraction in algebra – let’s use algebra !

I have seen some heavy handed ways of explaining the identity

a – (b + c) = a – b – c

Let us use algebra. Give the left hand side a name, say d .Then

a – (b + c) = d

This is an equation, so add (b+c) to each side and get

a = d + (b + c), then a = d + b + c as the parentheses are now superfluous.

Now subtract  b  from each side

a – b = d + c

Now subtract  c  from each side

a – b – c = d

so  a – (b + c) =  a – b – c

or is this too simple ? Look, no messing with p – q = p + -(q) stuff,

and no appeal to the famous distributive law.

You can do this, and other stuff, with numbers as well.

Filed under algebra, arithmetic, teaching

## Double negatives, or the meaning of -(-2)

In the extended number system of signed numbers, that is, the positive and negative numbers I see a lot of heart searching over the meaning of -(-2). This can be put to rest in one or both of two quite satisfactory ways:

1: Signed numbers are directed numbers, used for position, temperature, voltage etcetera. The basic question is “How far apart are the two numbers  A  and  B ?”, or more useful in a practical situation “How far is it from  A  to  B ?”.

This is a subtraction problem with direction and the answer is  B – A
For A=3 and B=7 we get
Distance from A to B = B – A = 7 – 3 = 4
For A=-3 and B=7 we get
Distance from A to B = B – A = 7 – (-3) = ???????????????
But a quick look at a number line shows that the distance is 10
So 7 – (-3) = 10
But 7 + 3 = 10 as well
Conclusion: -(-3) = +3

2: A simple and more abstract approach:
Starting with 7 – (-3) = ??????????????? we give a name to the unknown answer. Call it D.
Then using the basic fact that 12 – 4 = 8 is equivalent to 12 = 8 + 4 we have
7 – (-3) = D is equivalent to 7 = D + (-3)
7 = D + (-3) is equivalent to 7 = D – 3
7 = D – 3 is equivalent to 7 + 3 = D
which says that D = 10
So subtracting -3 is the same as adding 3

A meaningful example is as follows:
My friend from Anchorage calls me and says “It’s cold here this morning, -5 degrees”.
Down here in Puerto Rico it’s 68 degrees this morning.
How much warmer is it here than in Alaska?

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Filed under arithmetic, teaching

## Commutative, associative, distributive – These are THE LAWS

Idly passing the time this morning I thought of a – b = a + (-b).
Fair enough, it is the interpretation of subtraction in the extended positive/negative number system.

I then thought of a – (b + c)
Sticking to the rules I got a + (-(b + c))
To proceed further I had to guess that -(b + c) = (-b) + (-c)
and then, quite ok, a – (b + c) = a – b – c

But -(b + c) = (-b) + (-c) is guesswork.
I cannot see a rule to apply to this situation.

The only way forward is to use -1 as a multiplier:
So a – b = a + (-1)b = a + (-b),
and then -(b + c) = (-1)(b + c) = (-1)b + (-1)c = (-b) + (-c)
by the distributive law.

It’s not surprising that kids have trouble with negative numbers!

Do we just assert that the distributive law applies everywhere, even when it is only defined with ++’s ?