Browsing category algebra

A Textbook Error?

In class, a student asked to work through a question: Let $f(x) = \frac{5(x-1)}{(x+1)(x-4)} - \frac{3}{x-4}$. (a) Show that $f(x)$ can be written as $\frac{2}{x+1}$. (b)Hence find $f^{-1}(x)$, stating its domain. The answer they gave was outrageous1. Part (a) Part (a) was fine: combine it all into a single fraction

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A moment of neatness

Working through an FP2 question on telescoping sums (one of my favourite topics - although FP2 is full of those), we determined that $r^2 = \frac{\br{2r+1}^3-\br{2r-1}^3-2}{24}$. Adding these up for $r=1$ to $r=n$ gave the fairly neat result that $24\sum_{r=1}^{n} r^2 = \br{2n+1}^3 - 1 - 2n$. Now, there are

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Can you find a centre and angle of rotation without any construction?

Some time ago, I had a message from someone who - somewhat oddly - wanted to find a centre of rotation (with an unknown angle) without constructing any bisectors. (Obviously, if it was a right-angle rotation, they could use the set-square trick; if it was a half-turn, the centre of

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Why the factor and remainder theorem work

So there I was, merrily teaching the factor and remainder theorems, and my student asked me one of my favourite questions: "I accept that the method works, but why does it?" (I like that kind of question because it makes me think on my feet in class, and that makes

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$\cos(72º)$, revisited again: De Moivre’s Theorem

In previous articles, I've looked at how to find $\cos(72º)$ using some nasty algebra and some comparatively nice geometry. In this one, inspired by @ImMisterAl, I try some nicer - although quite literally complex - geometry. De Moivre's Theorem I'm going to assume you're ok with complex numbers. If you're

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Ask Uncle Colin: A Fractional Kerfuffle

Dear Uncle Colin, I was trying to work out $\frac{\frac{3}{7+h}-\frac{3}{7}}{h}$, and I got it down to $\frac{\frac{3}{h}}{h}$ - but that's not the answer in the book! What have I done wrong? - Likely I've Mistreated It Terribly Hi, LIMIT, and thank you for your message! I'm afraid you're right, you

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The Involution of Polynomials

Last time out, I looked at a problem unearthed by @mathsjem - to find the cube root of a degree-six polynomial. This led (unsurprisingly) to a quadratic: $3 + 4x - 2x^2$. When checking whether this was indeed the answer, I hit a problem: is there a simple way to

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The Evolution of Polynomials

It's always fascinating to see what's going on in textbooks of the olden days, and National Treasure @mathsjem recently found a beauty of its type. Look at those whences! Check out the subjunctives! It thrills the heart, doesn't it?1 What caught my attention, though, was evolution - in this context,

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A RITANGLE problem

When RITANGLE advises you to use technology to answer a question, you know it's going to get messy. So, with some trepidation, here goes: (As usual, everything below the line may contain spoilers.) It's easy enough to do this in Geogebra - but somehow a little bit unsatisfactory to move

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A quadratic simultaneous equation

A charming little puzzle from Brilliant: $x^2 + xy = 20$ $y^2 + xy = 30$ Find $xy$. I like this in part because there are many ways to solve it, and none of them the 'standard' way for dealing with simultaneous equations. You might look at it and say

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