**49**

votes

**29**answers

30k views

### Why do we teach calculus students the derivative as a limit?

I'm not teaching calculus right now, but I talk to someone who does, and the question that came up is why emphasize the $h \to 0$ definition of a derivative to calculus students?
Something a teacher ...

**47**

votes

**3**answers

4k views

### What is the status of the Gauss Circle Problem?

For $r > 0$, let $L(r) = \# \{ (x,y) \in \mathbb{Z}^2 \ | \ x^2 + y^2 \leq r^2\}$ be the number of lattice points lying on or inside the standard circle of radius $r$. It is easy to see that $L(r) ...

**36**

votes

**6**answers

10k views

### Best tablet computer for mathematics [closed]

I'm not sure if this is completely appropriate, but I thought I'd ask here.
I'm in the market for a tablet computer. Unfortunately, my (mathematical) needs are very different from the needs of the ...

**33**

votes

**6**answers

2k views

### What is the simplest, most elementary proof that a particular number is transcendental?

I teach, among many other things, a class of wonderful and inquisitive 7th graders. We've recently been studying and discussing various number systems (N, Z, Q, R, C, algebraic numbers, and even ...

**31**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### Gently falling functions

I wonder if it is possible to characterize the class of
gently falling functions, which I would like to define
as follows.
Let $g(x)$ be a $C^2$ function defined on an interval
$R \subseteq ...

**30**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### Mr. G.P.K.'s questions [closed]

WARNING: An acquaintance of mine, Mr.Goosepond Prhklstr Kratchinabritchisitch, has requested permission to post his questions under my username. When I asked him why he didn't do it under his own ...

**29**

votes

**37**answers

21k views

### What is your favorite “strange” function? [closed]

There are many "strange" functions to choose from and the deeper you get involved with math the more you encounter. I consciously don't mention any for reasons of bias. I am just curious what you ...

**28**

votes

**5**answers

2k views

### Can pure mathematics harness citizen science?

Having just finished Michael Nielsen's book "Reinventing Discovery", I find myself wondering if there are ways that pure mathematics research can engage the public in the way that GalaxyZoo or Foldit ...

**27**

votes

**9**answers

2k views

### Covering maps in real life that can be demonstrated to students

Edit: I've really enjoyed everyone's examples (especially the pictures!), but I was mostly looking for a general theorem. For instance, a similar statement to mine is, Can the mapping cylinder of ...

**26**

votes

**18**answers

6k views

### Interesting applications (in pure mathematics) of first-year calculus

What interesting applications are there for theorems or other results studied in first-year calculus courses?
A good example for such an application would be using a calculus theorem to prove a ...

**24**

votes

**2**answers

935 views

### Euler characteristic and universal cover

Let $M$ be a compact manifold, let $\tilde{M}$ be its universal cover, and suppose that the Euler characteristic $\chi(\tilde{M})=0$.
My question is: does this imply that $\chi(M)=0$?
This is clear if ...

**23**

votes

**14**answers

3k views

### Making sure that you have comprehended a concept

Hi,
I have a question that I've been thinking about for a long time.
How can you assure yourself that you've fully comprehended a concept or the true meaning of a theorem in mathematics?
I mean how ...

**22**

votes

**16**answers

2k views

### functions satisfying “one-one iff onto”

Hello Everybody.
I need some more examples for the following really interesting phenomenon:
A function from the class ... is one-one iff it is onto.
Some ...

**22**

votes

**1**answer

2k views

### Why do we use $\epsilon$ and $\delta$?

My understanding (from a talk by Rob Bradley) is that Cauchy is responsible for
the now-standard $\epsilon{-}\delta$ formulation of calculus, introduced in his
1821 Cours d’analyse. Although perhaps ...

**21**

votes

**2**answers

3k views

### What is the actual meaning of a fractional derivative?

We're all use to seeing differential operators of the form $\frac{d}{dx}^n$ where $n\in\mathbb{Z}$. But it has come to my attention that this generalises to all complex numbers, forming a field called ...

**21**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### Proving non-existence of solutions to $3^n-2^m=t$ without using congruences

I made a passing comment under Max Alekseyev's cute answer to this question and Pete Clark suggested I raise it explicitly as a different question. I cannot give any motivation for it however---it was ...

**20**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### What is the L-function version of quadratic reciprocity?

Quadratic reciprocity theorems states that for two different odd prime p and q,
we have (p/q)(q/p)=(-1)^(p-1)(q-1)/4.
What is the statement of this theorem in L-function?

**20**

votes

**6**answers

1k views

### Formal consequences of Riemann-Roch (multiple answers welcome)

This question aims to pin down what Riemann-Roch can tell us about a divisor on a curve, without any "geometric thinking". It can be annoying to wonder if there is some clever trick you're missing ...

**19**

votes

**6**answers

2k views

### Generalizations of “standard” calculus

We have the usual analogy between infinitesimal calculus (integrals and derivatives) and finite calculus (sums and forward differences), and also the generalization of infinitesimal calculus to ...

**19**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### Visualizing how Cech cohomology detects holes

I think it's pretty intuitive how singular/simplicial cohomology detects "holes" in a space.
How can we directly visualize how and in what sense the Cech cohomology of a cover does this?
In ...

**18**

votes

**9**answers

4k views

### How to motivate and present epsilon-delta proofs to undergraduates?

This would seem to be a common question, but I am surprised not to see it already asked and answered on MO!
I am teaching an undergraduate course, and I want to teach them to construct basic ...

**18**

votes

**13**answers

2k views

### Do you find your students are less competent in basic algebra and arithmetic, and, if so, do you believe that this is due to overuse of calculators at an early level? [closed]

So first I gave my class the quiz problem: Compute $$\lim_{h\rightarrow 0} \frac{\frac{1}{3+h} - \frac{1}{3}}{h}.$$ Upon finding that they could not do that (no real surprize) I asked them to compute ...

**18**

votes

**4**answers

1k views

### The “ds” which appears in an integral with respect to arclength is not a 1-form. What is it?

The only reasonable way to interpret "$ds$" as a functional on tangent vectors has to be that it takes a tangent vector and spits out its length, but this is not linear. So $ds$ is not a 1-form. It ...

**18**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### What is about nonassociative geometry?

At the end of a conference given by Alain Connes in 2000 (here is a video in French), a member of the audience asked a question. I transcribed and translated it for you below:
Audience: You showed ...

**17**

votes

**11**answers

5k views

### The role of the mean value theorem (MVT) in first-year calculus.

Should the mean value theorem be taught in first-year calculus?
Most calculus textbooks present the MVT just before the section that says that if $f'>0$ on an interval then $f$ increases on that ...

**16**

votes

**6**answers

4k views

### Angle Maximizing the Distance of a Projectile

It is well-known that to maximize the horizontal distance traveled by a projectile fired from the ground at a given speed, one should fire it at a $45^\circ$ angle. What's less-known, though not too ...

**16**

votes

**1**answer

462 views

### Question about product topology

Suppose $S\subset\mathbb{R}$ is dense without interior point, and for every open interval $I,J\subset\mathbb{R}$, $I\cap S$ is homeomorphic to $J\cap S$.
Is $S\times S$ homeomorphic to $S$?
By Luzin ...

**16**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### There is mathematics behind the 1989 Tour de France !

The $1989$ Tour was won by Greg Lemond (USA, $1961$ - ), who beat Laurent Fignon (France, $1960$ - $2010$) by $8''$. Yes, eight seconds! The closest tour in history.
Let me recall a few rules ...

**15**

votes

**8**answers

6k views

### Interesting Applications of the Classical Stokes Theorem?

When students learn multivariable calculus they're typically barraged with a collection of examples of the type "given surface X with boundary curve Y, evaluate the line integral of a vector field Y ...

**15**

votes

**3**answers

5k views

### How did Bernoulli prove L'Hôpital's rule?

To prove L'Hôpital's rule, the standard method is to use use Cauchy's Mean Value Theorem (and note that once you have Cauchy's MVT, you don't need an $\epsilon$-$\delta$ definition of limit to ...

**15**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### Model category structure on Set without axiom of choice

There is a model category structure on Set in which the cofibrations are the monomorphisms, the fibrations are maps which are either epimorphisms or have empty domain, and the weak equivalences are ...

**14**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Why is $ \frac{\pi^2}{12}=ln(2)$ not true ?

This question may sound ridiculous at first sight, but let me please show you all how I arrived at the afore mentioned 'identity'.
Let us begin with (one of the many) equalities established by Euler:
...

**14**

votes

**5**answers

2k views

### Where to publish a paper on the Mafia game?

I wrote a research paper "A mathematical model of the Mafia game" (arXiv:1009.1031 [math.PR]). However, I do not know where to publish it. As an undergraduate studying majorly physics, I have little ...

**14**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### The non-traveling mathematician problem

This is a career question. I have just begun a research postdoc position in Southern California. It has been hard, but I've enjoyed teaching my first graduate courses and working on research and ...

**14**

votes

**6**answers

4k views

### What's the notation for a function restricted to a subset of the codomain?

Suppose I have a function f : A → B between two sets A and B. (The same question applies to group homomorphisms, continuous maps between topological spaces, etc. But for simpicity let's restrict ...

**14**

votes

**5**answers

1k views

### Homological algebra and calculus (as in Newton)

This question reminded me of a possibly stupid idea that I had a while back.
On page 2 of this paper, while discussing Euclid's axioms of plane geometry and spatial geometry, Manin makes an extremely ...

**13**

votes

**5**answers

1k views

### Characterizing visual proofs

``Proofs without words'' is a popular column in the Mathematics magazine.
Question: What would be a nice way to characterize which assertions have such visual proofs? What definitions would one ...

**13**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### Probability of a Point on a Unit Sphere lying within a Cube

Suppose we have a (n-1 dimensional) Unit Sphere centered at the origin: $$ \sum_{i=1}^{n}{x_i}^2 = 1$$
What is the probability that a randomly selected point on the sphere, $ (x_1,x_2,x_3,...,x_n)$, ...

**12**

votes

**13**answers

2k views

### Applications of connectedness

In an «advanced calculus» course, I am talking tomorrow about connectedness (in the context of metric spaces, including notably the real line).
What are nice examples of applications of the idea ...

**12**

votes

**4**answers

5k views

### Atiyah-MacDonald, exercise 2.11

Let A be a commutative ring with 1 not equal to 0. (The ring A is not necessarily a domain, and is not necessarily noetherian.) Assume we have an injective map of free A-modules A^m -> A^n. Must we ...

**12**

votes

**9**answers

4k views

### Geometric imagination of differential forms

In order to explain to non-experts what is a vectorfield, one usually describes an assignemnt of an arrow to each point of space, and this works quite well, also when moving to manifolds (where a ...

**12**

votes

**3**answers

484 views

### Recognizing the 4-sphere and the Adjan--Rabin theorem

The problem of recognizing the standard $S^n$ is the following:
Given some simplicial complex $M$ with rational vertices representing a closed manifold,
can one decide (in finite time) if $M$ is ...

**12**

votes

**2**answers

546 views

### Independence of Leibniz rule and locality from other properties of the derivative?

The following is meant to be an axiomatization of differential calculus of a single variable. To avoid complications, let's say that $f$, $g$, $f'$, and $g'$ are smooth functions from $\mathbb{R}$ to ...

**12**

votes

**1**answer

2k views

### Anything going on for a mathematician stuck at New York?

First of all, apologies for the really non-standard question/announcement. I know this is not what MO was intended for, but in this situation it is the easiest way to reach (perhaps) the right person.
...

**12**

votes

**1**answer

311 views

### Permanent of a matrix of odd integers

It is clear that the permanent of an $n\times n$ matrix which entries are odd integers, is an even number, as it is the sum of $n!$ odd numbers. I am interested in finding the highest power of $2$ ...

**12**

votes

**2**answers

412 views

### Matrices into path algebras

I was thinking about quivers recently, and the following idea came to me.
Let ei,j denote the matrix unit in Mn for 1 ≤ i,j ≤ n. Let Γ denote the complete quiver on vertices {1, ...

**11**

votes

**2**answers

653 views

### Interesting result on the Euler-Maschroni constant - what is the background?

Today I entered the following expression in maple:
$$a_i = H_{10^i} - ln(10^i) - \gamma$$
Here $H_j$ equals $\sum_{k=1}^{j} 1/k$ and $\gamma$ is the Euler-Mascheroni constant.
When I computed $a_n$ ...

**11**

votes

**2**answers

4k views

### What is “Seetapun Enigma”?

A friend of mine just asked me this very question. While I had some training in combinatorics, I have never heard of the "Seetapun Enigma", which, supposedly, is related to the Ramsey's theorem. A ...

**11**

votes

**4**answers

822 views

### Applications of full integral weight modular forms in elementary number theory

Except for Eisenstein series having the divisor functions as their Fourier coefficients, is there any other full integral weight modular form (of some level, preferably full) having arithmetic ...

**11**

votes

**5**answers

4k views

### If d/dx is an operator, on what does it operate?

If $\frac{d}{dx}$ is a differential operator, what are its inputs? If the answer is "(differentiable) functions" (i.e., variable-agnostic sets of ordered pairs), we have difficulty distinguishing ...