[Numeracy 460] Re: Monday Puzzle

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Chip Burkitt chip.burkitt at orderingchaos.com
Tue Aug 3 13:30:48 EDT 2010

Students are often confused by the unary minus and unary plus signs.
These signs do not indicate an operation but rather whether the number
is positive or negative. For example, +2 and ­-4. They also get confused
when the unary minus precedes a variable, for example, ­-x > 0. Many
students assume this relation is false, but it actually means the same
as x < 0. When I teach the unary minus, I say that it means "the
opposite of" or "the additive inverse of" (with appropriate explanations
of what opposite and additive inverse mean). In a more perfect world,
perhaps, there would be different symbols for "opposite of" (which is a
number modifier) and "minus" (which is an operation on two numbers).

Chip Burkitt

On 8/3/2010 11:50 AM, Istas, Brooke wrote:


> Hello All!


> I am glad that many of you are contributing to the discussion with

> your methods for approaching these problems. My learners seem to

> really like these warm-up questions or brain teasers. Ladnor made a

> good point with his comment about the "=" symbol. I have seen the

> misuse of the equals symbols in many classrooms not just in adult

> education but in college/university classes, too (I have even been

> guilty of misusing it myself). *Does anyone else have an opinion about

> the misuse of math symbols? Does it create more math confusion? What

> other math symbols do you feel are misused and lead to further math

> frustration with learners?*


> Let's discuss this!


> Brooke Istas



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