Saturday, 24 April 2010

A Mathematical Waterfall

Mathematics equation can be fun.
It is not only used as a problem-solving tool, it can be used to create visual image simulating scene.

By trying a few equations, anyone with patience and basic maths knowledge can do it.
Simply create an expression or equation in a graph and tweet it to form any image.

Here you will see an image formed up to look like a waterfall.

Enjoy yourself.

This was done with both logarithm and trigonometry functions.


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Maths Symbol in Our Applications

There are many symbols in maths.
To learn and understand maths, we need to know the meaning of the symbols.

This is very much like talking to a foreigner. Without understanding each other's language, no communication can be carried out (other than the international body language!)

Hence, knowing the usage of the symbols in a mathematical expression helps.

But is it really so?


Why do I say that?

Yes, you may know the symbol while doing maths, but if the same symbol is used elsewhere, do you still understand?

One example is:

y = x + 1
This means x is added by one and their total is represented by the variable "y".
This is for the maths operator "+".

But what about the expression x++ ?
This looks odd, isn't it?

To the maths learner, this may be a typo error, or something is missing.

"x++" is actually commonly used in C programming.

What it means is   x = x + 1.
It is a short-cut way of writing the addition of x and replacing it by the same variable "x".

Thus this example showed the use of "+" in another application.

It is still maths in some sense, but written in another form.

Maths is therefore always around us. It is a matter of us applying them and understanding them.

Only by learning their "language", can we communicate with them.

Interesting?  I bet you agree!

Other applications can be " += ", " :-) " and " x>>4 ". 
Can you find their meaning?


Saturday, 10 April 2010

Number of Answers | Common mistake

Maths can be tricky when you are not careful.
This is not to frighten you, though.

This post is just to remind you of the wonderful aspect of maths in covering all areas.

Below is an example of what I meant.

Let's take the quadratic eqaution solving as a starting point

x2 = 5x

x  = 5x  /  x   = 5  (Answer)

At first, this looks pretty fine. The answer, when substituted back, produces match of equation.

But this is actually not complete.

Those doing quadratic equation will know 2nd order (x2) equation evaluates to 2 answsers.
The answers may be the same though.

Now, if we approach it using another method, let's see the different.

x2 - 5x = 0

==> x (x - 5) = 0   , after factorising

==>  x = 0  and  (x - 5) = 0
==>  x = 0  and   x = 5

There are two answers now.

We had the x = 5 initially, but what about this new x = 0.

We have missed out on the x = 0 with the first mehtod. It looks OK then.

What happen?
It may be due to lack of experience handling this form of maths question.

The concept in solving quadratic equation is actually not limited to second order.
The hidden message is depending on the order, the number of answers will follow suit.

What I meant is :
2nd order gives 2 answers,
3rd order gives 3 answers,
4th order gives 4 answers, etc.

It is this verry message that maths learner should capture. Otherwise you will be tricked to give only one answer which leads you to "mistakes" of being incomplete.

I agree that this is tricky, but within reasonable argument.
If a student practice hard (and smart), he will not fall prey to this type of simple math problem.

Do not get con again.

Enjoy maths. It's fun and interesting.


Monday, 5 April 2010

Simultaneous Equations | Re-write equations

Simple simultaneous equation problem comes as 2 straight forward mathematical expressions.

Example 1:

3x + y = 4
x + 2y = 3

But some may come in odd expressions (since life is always the case, which makes learning maths more exciting!)

Example 2:

(12 - x)(1 + y) = 15
(8 - x) (1 + y) = -15

Here you will notice that the unknowns are biased towards one side.

Approach 1:
Multiply the 2 factors to get something like example 1.
Using elimination method, remove one of the unknown.
Solve for the only one unknown left.
Using the result found, compute the other unknown.

Approach 2:  (The focus of this post)
Re-write the expression to make it look simpler.

The example 2 can be re-written into below simpler form:
(12 - x) = 15 / (1 + y)  ===>  (A)
(8 - x) = -15 / (1 + y)   ===>  (B)

Equation (B) can then be seen to be the negative of equation (A).

With the re-writing, we will be visually aided to see another form, a simpler one, of the simultaneous equations.

Moving forward with the solution...

12 - x = -(8 - x) = -8 + x
12 + 8 = 2x
x = 20 / 2 = 10     (ANSWER)
Putting x = 10 back into either equation (A) or (B),

We will get (12 - 10) (1 + y) = 15,  if we select equation (A)
1 + y = 15 / 2 = 7.5
y = 7.5 - 1 = 6.5 (ANSWER)

The solution is not the issue in this post.

The key message here is the technique of "re-writing" the equations to reveal the simplicity of the question.

Maths is not that difficult if you look and think to make it easy.


Friday, 2 April 2010

Tips on Avoiding Mistakes (Unit writing)

Maths involves many traps.

Any one of this traps will make the solution looks odd or even to the extent of wrong answer.

What are this traps ?

Mathematical operators, symbols, units, transferring of numbers, size of the written symbols, decimal points are some of the examples of traps contributing to the error.

Here I would like to mention about "unit".

In maths, calculation of items are aplenty. One of them is the study of speed.

In the topic of speed, students are dealing with three basic elements.
They are the distance, time and their ratio (speed).

All these three elements have different units all to themselve.

Distance ==  metre
Time ==  second
Speed == metre / sec

There are variations of the above.
km, mintues, hours, km / h, m / min, etc

Do you now see the danger?

If you are dealing with so many units in one maths question, what are the chance of making mistakes?
If you are careful, the chance is low, but it does not mean zero.

You still have to be careful.

How to avoid having mistakes due to this undesired slip?

One tip is to write down the units in the working steps.
Do not leave the numerical answer (in the working) without any unit indicated.

Make clear the item of interest, whether it is distance or time by reflecting the unit besides the number.

Example:  5 km,  40 sec.

A complete maths example will push the message across, thus ....

Example :
Alan travelled at a speed of 60 km / h for 2 h. After that, he slowed down by 20 km / h and travelled the last quarter of the journey at this new speed. How long did he take to travel?

60  x20 = 120
120 / 3 = 40
60 - 20 = 40
40 / 40 = 1
2 + 1 = 3
Answer: 3 hrs.

What is your comment on the working?

I personally feel uncomfortable.  What about you?

The danger in that sort of working is the lack of showing the actual item in the calculation.
It does not allow a good way for checking after completing the worksheet (if many maths problems are within).

Clearly writing the units will, at least, make checking later an easier task.

It also allows the marker (teacher) a clearer picture instead of guessing what you intend to show.

Along the way, during the working, you will also have a lesser chance of getting confuse as the items are listed with the proper message (through the units).

So are you convince proper unit presentation is worth the while?

A pointer for your thoughts.....

Cheers  :-D