The “many meanings” of variables

Chris Smith
Sep 23 · 12 min read

Enumerating variable meanings is an obstacle to comprehension and learning.

Variables belong to language, not mathematics.

Teaching language comprehension and communication is not easy.

We can teach fluid comprehension of variables.

Teachers should model variables as a communication technique.

The “distance formula”, as usually presented in textbooks
The “distance formula”, after naming interesting subexpressions

Students should define their own variables.

Quantification should be taught explicitly.

Background and Credits

Chris Smith

Written by

Software engineer at Google, volunteer math and computer science teacher, author of the CodeWorld platform, amateur ring theorist, and Haskell enthusiast.

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