My Favorite One-Liners: Part 119

Source: https://www.facebook.com/MathematicalMemesLogarithmicallyScaled/photos/a.1605246506167805/3119457221413385/?type=3&theater

Adding by a Form of 0 (Part 4)

In my previous post, I wrote out a proof (that an even number is an odd number plus 1) that included the following counterintuitive steps:

2k = (2k - 1) + 1 = ([2k - 1 - 1] + 1) + 1

A common reaction that I get from students, who are taking their first steps in learning how to write mathematical proofs, is that they don’t think they could produce steps like these on their own without a lot of coaching and prompting. They understand that the steps are correct, and they eventually understand why the steps were necessary for this particular proof (for example, the conversion from 2k-1 to [2k - 1 -1]+1 was necessary to show that 2k-1 is odd).

Not all students initially struggle with this concept, but some do. I’ve found that the following illustration is psychologically reassuring to students struggling with this concept. I tell them that while they may not be comfortable with adding and subtracting the same number (net effect of adding by 0), they should be comfortable with multiplying and dividing by the same number because they do this every time that they add or subtract fractions with different denominators. For example:

\displaystyle \frac{2}{3} + \frac{4}{5} = \displaystyle \frac{2}{3} \times 1 + \frac{4}{5} \times 1

= \displaystyle \frac{2}{3} \frac{5}{5} + \frac{4}{5} \times \frac{3}{3}

= \displaystyle \frac{10}{15} + \frac{12}{15}

= \displaystyle \frac{22}{15}

In the same way, we’re permitted to change 2k-1 to 2k-1 + 0 to 2k -1 - 1 + 1.

Hopefully, connecting this proof technique to this familiar operation from 5th or 6th grade mathematics — here in Texas, it appears in the 5th grade Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills under (3)(H) and (3)(K) — makes adding by a form of 0 in a proof somewhat less foreign to my students.

Adding by a Form of 0 (Part 3)

As part of my discrete mathematics class, I introduce my freshmen/sophomore students to various proof techniques, including proofs about sets. Here is one of the examples that I use that involves adding and subtracting a number twice in the same proof.

Theorem. Let A be the set of even integers, and define

B = \{ n: n = m+1 for some odd integer m\}

Then A = B.

Proof (with annotations). Before starting the proof, I should say that I expect my students to use the formal definitions of even and odd:

  • An integer n is even if n = 2k for some integer k.
  • An integer n is odd if n = 2k+1 for some integer k.

To prove that A = B, we must show that A \subseteq B and B \subseteq A. The first of these tends to trickiest for students.

Part 1. Let n \in A. By definition of even, that means that there is an integer k so that n = 2k.

To show that n \in B, we must show that n = m + 1 for some odd integer m. To this end, notice that n = (n-1) + 1. Thus, we must show that n - 1 is an odd integer, or that n -1 can be written in the form 2k+1. To do this, we add and subtract 1 a second time:

n = 2k

= (2k - 1) + 1

= ([2k - 1 - 1] + 1) + 1

= ([2k-2] + 1) + 1

= (2[k-1] + 1) + 1.

By the closure axioms, k-1 is an integer. Therefore, 2[k-1] + 1 is an odd number by definition of odd, and hence $n \in B$.

The above part of the proof can be a bit much to swallow for students first learning about proofs. For completeness, let me also include Part 2 (which, in my experience, most students can produce without difficulty).

Part 2. Let n \in B, so that n = m + 1 for some odd integer m. By definition of odd, there is an integer k so that $m = 2k+1$. Therefore, n = (2k+1) + 1 = 2k+2 = 2(k+1). By the closure axioms, k +1 is an integer. Therefore, n is even by definition of even, and so we conclude that n \in A.

\square

For what it’s worth, this is the review problems for which I recorded myself talking through the solution for the benefit of my students.

In my opinion, the biggest conceptual barriers in this proof are these steps from Part 1:

2k = (2k - 1) + 1 = ([2k - 1 - 1] + 1) + 1.

These steps are undeniably awkward. Back in high school algebra, students would get points taken off for making the expression more complicated instead of simplifying the answer. But this is the kind of jump that I need to train my students to do so that they can master this technique and be successful in their future math classes.

Adding by a Form of 0 (Part 2)

Often intuitive appeals for the proof of the Product Rule rely on pictures like the following:

The above picture comes from https://mrchasemath.com/2017/04/02/the-product-rule/, which notes the intuitive appeal of the argument but also its lack of rigor.

My preferred technique is to use the above rectangle picture but make it more rigorous. Assuming that the functions f and g are increasing, the difference f(x+h) g(x+h) - f(x) g(x) is exactly equal to the sum of the green and blue areas in the figure below.

In other words,

f(x+h) g(x+h) - f(x) g(x) = f(x+h) [g(x+h) - g(x)] + [f(x+h) - f(x)] g(x),

or

f(x+h) g(x+h) - f(x+h) g(x) + f(x+h) g(x) - f(x) g(x).

This gives a geometrical way of explaining this otherwise counterintuitive step for students not used to adding by a form of 0. I make a point of noting that we took one term, f(x+h), from the first product f(x+h) g(x+h), while the second term, g(x), came from the second product f(x) g(x). From this, the usual proof of the Product Rule follows:

[(fg)(x)]' = \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{f(x+h) g(x+h) - f(x) g(x)}{h}

\displaystyle = \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{f(x+h) [g(x+h) - g(x)]}{h} + \lim_{h\ to 0} \frac{[f(x+h) - f(x)] g(x)}{h}

\displaystyle = \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{f(x+h) [g(x+h) - g(x)]}{h} + \lim_{h\ to 0} \frac{[f(x+h) - f(x)] g(x)}{h}

\displaystyle = \lim_{h \to 0} f(x+h) \frac{g(x+h) - g(x)}{h} + \lim_{h\ to 0} \frac{f(x+h) - f(x) }{h} g(x)

= f(x)g'(x) + f'(x) g(x)

For what it’s worth, a Google Images search for proofs of the Product Rule yielded plenty of pictures like the one at the top of this post but did not yield any pictures remotely similar to the green and blue rectangles above. This suggests to me that the above approach of motivating this critical step of this derivation might not be commonly known.

Once students have been introduced to the idea of adding by a form of 0, my experience is that the proof of the Quotient Rule is much more palatable. I’m unaware of a geometric proof that I would be willing to try with students (a description of the best attempt I’ve seen can be found here), and so adding by a form of 0 becomes unavoidable. The proof begins

\left[\left( \displaystyle \frac{f}{g} \right)(x) \right]' = \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h)}{ g(x+h)} - \frac{f(x)}{ g(x)}}{h}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x) g(x+h)}{ g(x) g(x+h)}}{h}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x) g(x+h)}{ h g(x) g(x+h)}.

At this point, I ask my students what we should add and subtract this time to complete the derivation. Given the previous experience with the Product Rule, students are usually quick to chose one factor from the first term and another factor from the second term, usually picking f(x) g(x). In fact, they usually find this step easier than the analogous step in the Product Rule because this expression is more palatable than the slightly more complicated f(x+h) g(x). From here, the rest of the proof follows:

[(fg)(x)]' = \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x) g(x+h)}{h }}{g(x) g(x+h)}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x)g(x) + f(x)g(x) - f(x) g(x+h)}{h }}{g(x) g(x+h)}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x)g(x)}{h} + \frac{f(x)g(x) - f(x) g(x+h)}{h }}{g(x) g(x+h)}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x)g(x)}{h} - \frac{f(x) g(x+h) - f(x)g(x)}{h }}{g(x) g(x+h)}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{[f(x+h) - f(x)] g(x)}{h} - \frac{f(x) [g(x+h) - g(x)]}{h }}{g(x) g(x+h)}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h) - f(x) }{h} g(x) - f(x) \frac{ g(x+h) - g(x)}{h }}{g(x) g(x+h)}

= \displaystyle \frac{ f'(x) g(x) - f(x) g'(x)}{g(x)^2}

P.S.

  • The website https://mrchasemath.com/2017/04/02/the-product-rule/ also suggests an interesting pedagogical idea: before giving the formal proof of the Product Rule, use a particular function and the limit definition of a derivative so that students can intuitively guess the form of the rule. For example, if g(x) = x^2:

Adding by a Form of 0 (Part 1)

Adding by a form of 0, or adding and subtracting the same quantity, is a common technique in mathematical proofs. For example, this technique is used in the second step of the standard proof of the Product Rule in calculus:

[(fg)(x)]' = \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{f(x+h) g(x+h) - f(x) g(x)}{h}

\displaystyle = \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{f(x+h) g(x+h) - f(x+h) g(x) + f(x+h) g(x) - f(x) g(x)}{h}

\displaystyle = \lim_{h \to 0} \left[ \frac{f(x+h) g(x+h) - f(x+h) g(x)}{h} + \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x) g(x)}{h} \right]

\displaystyle = \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{f(x+h) g(x+h) - f(x+h) g(x)}{h} + \lim_{h\ to 0} \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x) g(x)}{h}

\displaystyle = \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{f(x+h) [g(x+h) - g(x)]}{h} + \lim_{h\ to 0} \frac{[f(x+h) - f(x)] g(x)}{h}

\displaystyle = \lim_{h \to 0} f(x+h) \frac{g(x+h) - g(x)}{h} + \lim_{h\ to 0} \frac{f(x+h) - f(x) }{h} g(x)

= f(x)g'(x) + f'(x) g(x)

Or the proof of the Quotient Rule:

\left[\left( \displaystyle \frac{f}{g} \right)(x) \right]' = \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h)}{ g(x+h)} - \frac{f(x)}{ g(x)}}{h}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x) g(x+h)}{ g(x) g(x+h)}}{h}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x) g(x+h)}{ h g(x) g(x+h)}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x) g(x+h)}{h }}{g(x) g(x+h)}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x)g(x) + f(x)g(x) - f(x) g(x+h)}{h }}{g(x) g(x+h)}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x)g(x)}{h} + \frac{f(x)g(x) - f(x) g(x+h)}{h }}{g(x) g(x+h)}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h) g(x) - f(x)g(x)}{h} - \frac{f(x) g(x+h) - f(x)g(x)}{h }}{g(x) g(x+h)}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{[f(x+h) - f(x)] g(x)}{h} - \frac{f(x) [g(x+h) - g(x)]}{h }}{g(x) g(x+h)}

= \displaystyle \lim_{h \to 0} \frac{ \displaystyle \frac{f(x+h) - f(x) }{h} g(x) - f(x) \frac{ g(x+h) - g(x)}{h }}{g(x) g(x+h)}

= \displaystyle \frac{ f'(x) g(x) - f(x) g'(x)}{g(x)^2}

This is a technique that we expect math majors to add to their repertoire of techniques as they progress through the curriculum. I forget the exact proof, but I remember that, when I was a student in honors calculus, we had some theorem that required an argument of the form

|x - y| = |x - A + A - B + B - C + C - D + D - E + E - F + F - y|

\le |x - A| + |A - B| + |B - C| + |C - D| + |D - E| + |E - F| + |F - y|

\le \displaystyle \frac{\epsilon}{7} + \frac{\epsilon}{7} +\frac{\epsilon}{7} +\frac{\epsilon}{7} +\frac{\epsilon}{7} +\frac{\epsilon}{7} +\frac{\epsilon}{7}

= \epsilon

But while this is a technique that expect students to master, there’s no doubt that this looks utterly foreign to a student first encountering this technique. After all, in high school algebra, students would simplify something like x - A + A - B + B - C + C - D + D - E + E - F + F - y into x-y. If they were to convert x-y into something more complicated like x - A + A - B + B - C + C - D + D - E + E - F + F - y, they would most definitely get points taken off.

In this brief series, I’d like to give some thoughts on getting students comfortable with this technique.

Wason Selection Task: Index

I’m doing something that I should have done a long time ago: collecting a series of posts into one single post. The following links comprised my series on the Wason Selection Task.

Part 1: Statement of the problem.

Part 2: Answer of the problem.

Part 3: Pedagogical thoughts about the problem, including variants.

 

Engaging students: Completing the square

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Victor Acevedo. His topic, from Algebra: completing the square.

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How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

Completing the square is an Algebra II topic that builds on students’ prior knowledge of areas and shapes. With a given quadratic equation, students can make a visual representation of what it looks like by using Alge-blocks or Algebra tiles.  The x-squared term becomes the starting point for the model. The x term gets split in half and placed on 2 adjacent sides of the x-squared term. The next step in the process requires the student fill in what is missing of the square. Students use their knowledge of squares and packing to complete the square and make the quadratic equation easily factorable.

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How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

Eddie Woo is an Australian High School Math teacher that also uploads videos to YouTube. He uploads his class lectures that he thinks will help others appreciate and understand math concepts better. He made this video where he makes a visual representation and informal proof for why the “Completing the Square” method works. By using the student’s knowledge of equations and shapes he can construct the square that appears when completing the square for a quadratic equation. The moment that he puts the blocks together you can hear the amazement by his students. Many of his videos have this some feeling to them in which he explores the beauty of math and makes logical connections between what students already know and what they need to know.

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What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?

Completing the square was a method that was discovered in order to solve quadratic equations. This method was discovered by Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, a Persian mathematician, astronomer, and geographer. Al-Khwarizmi, also known as the father of Algebra, wrote “The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing” in which he presented systematic solutions to solving linear and quadratic equations. At the time Al-Khwarizmi’s goal was to simplify any quadratic equation to be expressed with squares, roots, and numbers (ax2, bx, and c constants respectively) to one of six standard forms. The method of completing the square is a simple one to follow, but it had not been put into words formally until Al-Khwarizmi laid out the steps. In his book he progressed through solving simple linear equations and then simple quadratic equations that only required roots. This method only came up once he got to quadratic equations of the form ax2+bx+c=0 that could not be solved simply with roots. The discovery of this method leads to a simpler way of visually representing quadratic equations and applying it to parabolic functions.

 

References

Hughes, Barnabas. “Completing the Square – Quadratics Using Addition.” MAA Press | Periodical | Convergence, Mathematical Association of America, Aug. 2011, www.maa.org/press/periodicals/convergence/completing-the-square-quadratics-using-addition.

Mastin, Luke. “Al-Khwarizmi – Islamic Mathematics – The Story of Mathematics.” Egyptian Mathematics – The Story of Mathematics, 2010, www.storyofmathematics.com/islamic_alkhwarizmi.html.

My Favorite One-Liners: Part 109

I tried a new joke in class recently; it worked gloriously.

I wrote on the board a mathematical conjecture that has yet to be proven or disproven. To emphasize that nobody knows the answer yet despite centuries of effort, I told the class, “If you figure this out, call me and call me collect,” writing my office phone number on the board.

To complete the joke, I said, “Yeah, this is crazy. So here’s my number…”

I thoroughly enjoyed my students’ coruscating groans before I could complete the punch line.

Engaging students: Completing the square

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Kelsi Kolbe. Her topic, from Algebra: completing the square.

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A2) How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

When students are learning how to complete the square they are usually told the algorithm take b divide it by two and square it, add that number to both sides. To the students this concept seems like a ‘random trick’ that works. This can lead to students forgetting the formula with no way to get it back. However, if we show students how to complete the square using algebra tiles they will be able to understand how the formula came to be (pictured to the left). This will allow the students to be able to have actual concrete knowledge to lean on if they forget the algorithm.

For an engage I would introduce them how to use the algebra tiles by representing different equations on the tiles. I would mix perfect squares and non-perfect squares. I would wait to do the actual completing the square as the explore activity. This way it’s something they can experiment with and really learn the material themselves.

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What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?

Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi was a Persian mathematician in the early 9th century. He oversaw the translation of many mathematical works into Arabic. He even produced his own work which would influence future mathematics. In 830 he published a book called: “Al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wa’l-muqabala” Which translates to “The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing” This book is still considered a fundamental book of modern algebra. The word algebra actually came from the Latinization of the word “al-jabr” which was in the title of his book. The term ‘algorithm’ also came from the Latinization of Al-Kwarizmi. In his book he solved second degree polynomials. He used new methods of reduction, cancellation, and balancing. He developed a formula to solving quadratic equations. As you can see to the right this is how Al-Khwarizmi used the method of ‘completing the square’ in his book. It is very similar to how we use algebra tiles in modern day. You can really see the effect he had on modern algebra, especially in solving quadratic equations.

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E1) How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

I found a fun YouTube video of the Fort Collins High School Math Department singing a parody of Taylor Swift’s song “blank space”. In the video they are teaching the steps for completing the square. It also addresses imaginary numbers for more complex problems. I think this could be a fun engage to get the students attention. The video incorporates pop culture into something educational. I have always liked watching mathematical parodies videos on YouTube. It not only engages the students, but if they already know the words to the song, they could also get the song stuck in their head, which will help them solve the problems in the future.

References:
Completing the Square. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2017, from http://www.mathisradical.com/completing-the-square.html
Mastin, L. (2010). Islamic Mathmatics – Al-Khwarizmi. Retrived September 14, 2017, from http://www.storyofmathematics.com/islamic_alkhwarizmi.html

Engaging students: Dividing fractions

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Kerryana Medlin. Her topic, from Pre-Algebra: dividing fractions.

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How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

One of the more practical uses of dividing fractions is cooking. Anybody who has baked in the past will know that sometimes one does not possess the proper measuring cup for the job and that they have to crunch some numbers. (This happens a lot when in college.)

The basic idea behind the activity is to ask the students to follow a recipe using a 1/3 cup measuring cup and a teaspoon. This will also allow them to practice dividing whole numbers by fractions, which strengthens to concept as well. They will be reminded that a whole number can be expressed as the number over one.

The ingredient list would be as follows:

Treats:

5-6 cups of rice cereal

1 cup of marshmallow fluff

1/3 cup of sprinkles

Buttercream:

½ cup unsalted butter

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract

1-3 teaspoons of milk

They would be asked to figure out how many 1/3 cups each component would take. This would also help the students to use the skill of adding fractions (1 and ½ being 3/2) before dividing. The recipe would ultimately make rice cereal treats with icing on top (enough for the entire class). This is envisioned as an activity in which the students work either individually or in small groups to do the calculations and then come together as a class to provide answers and give me the proper amount of ingredients to put into the recipe.

 

 

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How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

Dividing fractions involves prior knowledge from fractions, generally. If dividing by flipping the dividend and then multiplying the resulting two fractions, the student must use their knowledge of multiplication of fractions and inverses, assuming that they have learned anything about inverses at this point. If the student is taught to find the greatest common denominator first, then they will use their knowledge of greatest common denominators and basic division to find the quotient. They will also be reminded of the concept of whole numbers being expressed as fractions in this topic.

 

 

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How did people’s conception of this topic change over time?

Originally, division of fractions would have been thought of in terms of practical use only and was likely conceptual since the symbolism of fractions was not the clearest. An example of fraction systems that were more difficult to comprehend, would be the Egyptian system, since they would add together unit fractions to represent non-unit fractions, unless it was fraction that had a repeating unit fraction, such as 2/7 = 1/7 + 1/7 (Weisstein). When symbols became clear, the division was done by taking the fractions, finding their common denominator, then dividing the numerators and denominators, leaving the quotient. The Babylonians mostly used the method of taking the inverse of the divisor and then multiplying by the dividend (O’Connor and Robertson, 2000). This is still a popular method. Today we can do either, but some believe that doing this operation algebraically might be better for students because thinking about division of fractions in only a practical sense will stifle their imagination (Ahia and Fredua-Kwarteng, 2006).

 

References:

Jamie. (2016). Birthday Marshmallow Cereal Treats. My Baking Addiction. Retrieved from

https://www.mybakingaddiction.com/birthday-marshmallow-cereal-treats/

Ahia, Francis and Fredua-Kwarteng, E.. (2006) Understanding Division of Fractions: An Alternative View.

Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED493746.pdf

O’Connor, J. and Robertson E.. (2000). An overview of Babylonian mathematics. Retrieved from

http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/HistTopics/Babylonian_mathematics.html

Weisstein, Eric. (n.d.). Egyptian Fraction. MathWorld. Retrieved from

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/EgyptianFraction.html