For the longest time, I never understood how the Addition Method solved a system of simultaneous equations. What I mean to say is that I could carry out the method’s steps, but I didn’t understand why adding two equations was legal. It seemed unintuitive to me.
For example, take this system of two linear equations:
Here is how I would solve it using the Addition Method:
Which is great, but why Step 3? I could understand the motivation for adding two equations to eliminate a variable, but what mathematical principle said it was okay to do that in the first place? It seemed to just about as rational to me as doing a head-stand while holding my nose to get the answer!
So I thought about it obsessively for a couple of hours and eventually realized the following:
The initial system basically says that is and is . Conversely, is and is .
Nothing to write home about, but let’s say I want to add and . Yes, the answer is , but suppose I want the answer to be in terms of and .
That is, Step 3! Effectively, we can add up the equations because a side of an equation can stand-in for its equivalent on the other side. The adding of equations is effectively the addition of numbers on the righthand sides of the two equations as the sum of those same numbers in terms of and .
For some, perhaps, this entry is a useless explanation of the obvious. Maybe it is, but no matter: now I understand something which I didn’t before, which I think is better than blindly accepting something as true, even if it’s small thing such as adding equations.
Here is a PDF version of a math problem I recently created. You’ll have to know how to factor cubic polynomials, so you may want to brush up on that first, or use this problem as a refresher. Just click on the link below to open it up. If you get stuck, a full solution starts on the second page.*
* I know I’m being lazy here not writing the problem directly in the post, but it would take at least an hour’s work to insert all the LaTeX bits and to align things. Most browsers come with a PDF viewer, right ;-)?
One of the things I don’t like about blogging is how long it can take to put together a blog post, even after it has been written, edited and polished. Aside from all the formatting required to make an entry look the way I want (see above), the other big time-suck has been adding mathematical statements (equations, formulas, expressions, etc.) to my blog. While I love MathType for its ease-of-use, using it has meant I’ve had to suffer through 1) writing math statements in the MathType Editor, 2) inserting them into a Pages document, 3) copying the said insertion into Preview, 4) exporting the Preview file as a PNG, 5) uploading the PNG to WordPress, and, finally, 6) inserting the PNG into the appropriate blog post. This is a lot of steps for something as short as, say, the area of circle (again, see above).
Given a quadratic equation in general form , the equation’s roots are
Continue reading “Kinky Adventures in LaTeX Land: The Sum and Product of Roots of a Quadratic Equation”
When I was in Grade 7 our homeroom/math teacher told the class in a hushed voice, “Don’t cross multiply.” At the time I didn’t understand what he meant, nor did I likely understand what cross multiplication was. Ever since I have occasionally wondered why he would admonish students from using such a useful tool. Cross-multiplication can tell you whether two proportions are equivalent and get you out of some tricky algebraic situations involving fractions.
Showing that two proportions are equivalent
Continue reading “To cross multiply or not cross multiply”
Give the algebraic expression that represents the perimeter of the following polygon.
Over the last five years working as a tutor I have seen many students struggle with a problem like the one above. To answer it we must remember that the perimeter of any shape can be found by adding up its side-lengths. With side-lengths that are numbers this is straightforward, but with side-lengths that have variables and numbers it can be tricky—you need to know how to identify like-terms and how to sum them correctly.
Therefore, the perimeter of the polygon is 13x-34 units.
But getting an answer such as 13x-34 is not necessarily what students have in mind as an answer. Often, they expect and, perhaps, want a number. Continue reading “Algebraic Expressions vs Algebraic Equations”