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Language, notation and formulas

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Communication is as vital in mathematics as in any language. This free course, Language, notation and formulas, will help you to express yourself clearly when writing and speaking about mathematics. You will also learn how to answer questions in the manner that is expected by the examiner.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • lay out and, where appropriate, label simple mathematical arguments
  • understand the precise mathematical meaning of certain common English words
  • understand and use common mathematical symbols
  • write clear, unambiguous mathematical solutions using appropriate notation
  • identify and modify some sources of ambiguity or inappropriate use of notation in a mathematical solution.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 5 hours
  • Updated Tuesday 23rd February 2016
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under Mathematics Education
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Language, notation and formulas


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An integral part of learning mathematics involves communication.

Writing mathematics is a specific skill which needs to be developed and practised: there is a lot of difference between putting down a few symbols for your own use and writing a mathematical solution intended for someone else to read. In attempting mathematical questions, you may previously have written down very little, just enough, perhaps, to convince yourself that you could answer the questions. This may suffice now, but you may want to use your notes and solutions for revision so you will want them to be self-contained, able to stand on their own and easy to read. This will also be the case if you are writing mathematics for somebody else to read.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 1 study in Mathematics [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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