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# It's Only a Minus Sign

The key for this problem is for students to appreciate that the signs in differential equations are of crucial importance in determining the structure of a solution. They can make the difference between solutions growing to infinity, oscillating or settling down to zero.

When constructing differential equations using, for example, $F \; = \; ma$, negative signs on the right hand side correspond to 'repulsions' and positive signs correspond to 'attractions'.

Understanding the structure of equations in this way is a very powerful approach which can transcend the details of the algebraic solution.

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Age 16 to 18

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The key for this problem is for students to appreciate that the signs in differential equations are of crucial importance in determining the structure of a solution. They can make the difference between solutions growing to infinity, oscillating or settling down to zero.

When constructing differential equations using, for example, $F \; = \; ma$, negative signs on the right hand side correspond to 'repulsions' and positive signs correspond to 'attractions'.

Understanding the structure of equations in this way is a very powerful approach which can transcend the details of the algebraic solution.

A circle is inscribed in an equilateral triangle. Smaller circles touch it and the sides of the triangle, the process continuing indefinitely. What is the sum of the areas of all the circles?

$2\wedge 3\wedge 4$ could be $(2^3)^4$ or $2^{(3^4)}$. Does it make any difference? For both definitions, which is bigger: $r\wedge r\wedge r\wedge r\dots$ where the powers of $r$ go on for ever, or $(r^r)^r$, where $r$ is $\sqrt{2}$?