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Homophonic Humor: Spelling Makes the Difference Have you ever puzzled over what a writer really meant because of the spelling of one word? In these pairs of statements, spelling makes the difference ... ... between location and comfort: "They’re there now." "There, there, now." ... between number and coincidence: "I saw those two." "I saw those, too." ... between kind and condition: "He’s a little horse." "He’s a little hoarse." ... between quality and content: "These are coarse materials." "These are course materials." ... between location and appearance: "That is a good site." "That is a good sight." ... between liberty and liturgy: "He doesn’t understand our rights." "He doesn’t understand our rites." ... between appreciation and completion: "That’s the right compliment... read more

Algebra is a tool. Practice helps us learn how to use it. Here are some ways to practice Algebra in ordinary activities. "How much is this with the discount?" You are shopping at Penney's. The sign on a rack says, "St. Johns Bay Tops 40% Off Marked Price." Your sister looks at a top and asks, "How much is this with the discount?" You want a way to figure the sale price no matter the marked (original) price or the discount rate. What do you want to find? The sale price. Let's label that s. What is the marked price? Let's label that p. What is the discount? Let's label that d. So now, how do we use the discount to find the sale price from the marked price? s = ? s = p - d We have to remember that the discount rate is a percentage of p. Let's label that r. We also want to simplify the arithmetic, make it easier if we are figuring this in our heads in the store. We know that p equals 100% of itself. And we are... read more

As teachers and tutors, we need to be ready for any question or answer we receive from students. This is due to several factors, including, among other things, learning difficulties, inattention, unfamiliarity with the subject, material missed during an absence, or student playfulness. Therefore, we have to be understanding and patient, using the occasion as a teaching opportunity. In the following story, how should Mr. Parks react? Family Membership Mr. Parks is the Biology teacher at Brown County High School. One day in Botany class he held up a jar of Pedro's Taco Salt, showing the front label to the class. "What is this?" he asked "Taco salt." "Let's see what's in it?" Mr. Parks turned the jar and read from the back label. As he spoke, the ingredients appeared on a screen. "The ingredients are 'salt, dried red and green bell peppers, granulated sun-dried tomatoes, celery, parsley, cilantro, onion powder, cumin,... read more

The English language abounds with homophones, words which share the same sounds, but have different meanings and, especially, spellings. There are also near homophones. These can be confusing to writer and reader alike. Most of the time the context tells the reader which word is intended, but sometimes it may mislead the reader. Therefore, it is important to properly spell the word you are using to clarify your meaning. The wrong choice among homophonic spellings may not only confuse your readers, it can make them stumble in reading your material. And it can make a poor impression when a good impression counts. Examples of this are resumes, cover letters and reports. So how do we keep homophones straight? We may memorize many sets of homophones. But many of us have trouble just remembering what amounts to another list. I suggest using mnemonics. A mnemonic is a device which aids memory. What I am suggesting is mnemonic sentences or phrases which use the homophones in... read more

In high school geometry, we learned of the perfect right triangle. Both sides and the hypotenuse are integers (whole numbers). The perfect right triangle shown was 3, 4, 5. (3 sq + 4 sq = 9 + 16 = 25 = 5 sq). I wondered if there were others. Years later, I seriously searched for other perfect right triangles. I began with a list of the squares of whole numbers and the difference between one square and the next (the "delta"). Discovery #1: The series of deltas = the series of odd numbers. I looked for deltas which are squares. Since the series of deltas is the series of odd numbers, the square of every odd number is the difference between two squares. Discovery #2: Every odd number 3 and above is the side of a right triangle. Implication of Discovery # 2: Since there is an infinite number of odd numbers, there is an infinite number of perfect right triangles. Next, a formula for finding the other sides and hypotenuse of a right triangle was... read more

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