Learning and Relearning

Math is a word that provokes strong feelings in most people. It’s often thought that you either get it or you don’t; you either love it or hate it. My goal during my two math courses this semester is to remind myself that there are not “math people” and “non-math people”, but rather those that it comes naturally to and those that just need some extra help. If you haven’t guessed, I’m in the latter group.

This semester began covering concepts that I recognized. In week 2, however, I was not so lucky. We began learning about sets and whole numbers, and my head started spinning. It continued to spin until yesterday when a friend of mine responded to my complaining about learning new math concepts (I must have forgot to remind myself about the whole “math people” thing…) with a hint that turned things around….

Her hint went like this:

The intersection of two sets, A and B, is written A ∩ B, (the upside-down U is technically called a cup) and is the set of elements common to both A and B. In a Venn Diagram, it would look like this:


or this:

intersection 2

The union of two sets, A and B, is written A ∪ B, and is the set of all elements are in A or B. It would look like this:


or this:

union 2

I was struggling to remember the difference between the two symbols and what they meant, and that’s where the hint comes in. The union symbol (technically called a cup) looks like a “U” (obvious) but it also looks like a smile. And you would smile if more was included, right? OK, so my hint isn’t revolutionary, but it helped me to remember one small thing, and for that I’m thankful.

Do you have any tricks?


*all photos from Wikipedia.