Recently, I enjoyed this article “This Math Problem Will Make You Lose Your Mind“. It all revolves around the solution of this problem.
It generated quite a bit of discussion from friends of mine, along with different answers. In fact, even the internet doesn’t quite have its act together. Turning to YouTube, you’ll find a couple of different answers fully documented in video.
How can the internet be wrong?
Our discussion eventually got around to the use of ÷ and / to denote division. (I threw in \ which in programming means integer division just to make things muddier.) Peter Been jumped in with his thoughts and a couple of terms that I had long since forgotten – obelus and solidus.
All in all, I found the discussion really interesting. It also reminded me of a comment from a university professor about mathematics. “It’s not just a science; it’s an art; it’s a communication vehicle.”
It’s the communication vehicle that we should really give credence to. If we believe that there should only be one answer to a problem, then the problem needs to be communicated in a way that leads to the solution. Not the trick problems that we loved/hated on test.
Which led me to this resource, Welcome To Mathematical Communication.
If it’s important enough to do, it’s important enough to communicate it accurately and effectively. This resource is just packed with advice and suggestions to become more effective mathematics communicators.