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Language, notation and formulas
Communication is as vital in mathematics as in any language. This unit will help you to...
Communication is as vital in mathematics as in any language. This unit 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.
By the end of this unit 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;
- use word formulas to calculate given quantities;
- use formulas to convert units.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Communicating mathematics
- 2 Reading mathematics
- 2.1 Layout
- 2.2 Using the equals sign
- 2.3 Link words
- 2.4 Labelling lines
- 2.5 Vocabulary
- 2.6 Making sense of symbols
- 2.7 Powers and roots
- 2.8 Relationship symbols
- 3 Formulas
- 4 The format of questions
- 5 Approaches to problem solving
- 6 Writing out solutions
- 7 OpenMark quiz
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Language, notation and formulas
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 unit is from our archive and is an adapted extract from Mathematics: a foundation course (MU120) which is no longer taught by The Open University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in this.
This is an extract from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Mathematics Education courses or view the range of currently available OU Mathematics Education courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Friday, 10th June 2011
Last updated on: Tuesday, 30th September 2014
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section.
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