# How many arithmetic and basic algebra errors do you make

1. Aug 1, 2012

### g.lemaitre

when i do higher maths i make a tone of basic algebra and arithmetic mistakes. i was going a basic AX = B using LU decomposition in linear algebra and I had to go back and check my basic math about 6 times before i got the right answer. is it just me or do a lot of people do this?

2. Aug 1, 2012

### chiro

It's more common than you think.

I had to do a double integral the other day and it took me about four tries to turn an interval (triangle) into the right limits for integration. The interval was a simple triangle and I screwed up the region quite a few times.

It happens.

3. Aug 1, 2012

### g.lemaitre

maybe my problem is that i'm completely self-taught. the last time i took a math exam was 20 years ago. i taught myself calc and linear algebra without ever having to take a test. i just move on when i feel like i understand and i review when i run into a concept that i don't understand. consequently, i've never had to develop the discipline of checking my work.

4. Aug 1, 2012

Staff Emeritus
I can tell your problem from your posts. "i". "tone". If you are too careless to write properly, no wonder you are making simple math errors. That's what you will need to work on.

5. Aug 1, 2012

### chiro

It does help to have some kind of feedback mechanism in place to have both a reference point for checking things as well as a little pressure to make sure things get done right (in this case to help remove the errors).

The way that programmers do this is to set themselves a mini-project that is modest in its goals, but provides enough of a result so that it can be realized.

What might help you is to have some sort of mathematical project where you could say implement your model and plot it to see if it comes out right. The result of the plot can help you reinforce the results as well as give you feedback on whether you made mistakes in the process.

You'll find that the rewards come from the feedback of your own work, even if it is in little chunks and the great thing is that with computers, you can store all the work, code, simulation results, thoughts and everything else and see it develop over time which is one of the best ways of getting motivated and staying motivated later on.

6. Aug 1, 2012

### Stephen Tashi

I think the worst ptifall of self-teaching is misunderstanding mathematical definitions. There is always the temptation to recast a definition "using your own words" and get concepts completely scewed up. When it comes to doing calculations, I think there is less danger since you can check your work in various ways. I don't like doing calculations. I usually visualize bits and pieces of a long calculation and try to see how bad things will be. When I get an intuitive idea of that, I try to do things in an organized fashion. I work by "successive approximation".