# Practice With the Mathematical Words ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘is equivalent to’

## Equal versus Equivalent

Whereas the ‘$\,=\,$’ sign
gives a way to compare mathematical *expressions*,
the idea of *equivalence*
gives a way to compare mathematical *sentences*.

To motivate the idea of equivalence, consider these two mathematical sentences:

$$ \begin{gather} \cssId{s8}{2x-3 = 0}\cr\cr \cssId{s9}{\text{and}}\cr\cr \cssId{s10}{x = \frac{3}{2}} \end{gather} $$
They certainly *look* different.

But, no matter what value is chosen
for the variable $\,x\,,$
these two sentences *always have the same truth values*.
Indeed,
$\,2x - 3 = 0\,$
is true only when
$\,x\,$ is
$\,\frac{3}{2}\,,$ and false otherwise.
Also,
$\, x = \frac{3}{2}\,$
is true only when
$\,x\,$
is
$\,\frac{3}{2}\,,$ and false otherwise.

When two mathematical sentences
always have the same truth values,
then they can be used *interchangeably*,
and you can use whichever sentence
is easiest for a given situation.

The mathematical verb used
to compare the truth values of sentences is:
‘is equivalent to’.
Be careful, because *equal*
and *equivalent* have totally different uses in mathematics!

You compare *expressions* using ‘equal’.
(Numbers can be equal, sets can be equal.)
You compare *sentences* using ‘equivalent’.
(Equations can be equivalent, inequalities can be equivalent.)

## Connectives

To make the idea of
‘equivalence of sentences’ precise,
we must first talk about
*connectives* and *compound sentences*.

Mathematicians frequently take ‘little’ things
and connect them into ‘bigger’ things,
using appropriate *connectives*.
Once connected up, the result is often referred to as a
*compound* thing:

There are different types of connectives, depending on what is being connected.

Numbers can be ‘connected’ to get a new number. The four most common connectives for numbers are:

- addition ($\,+\,$)
- subtraction ($\,-\,$)
- multiplication ($\,\cdot\,$)
- division ($\,/\,$)

Sets can be ‘connected’ to get a new set: union and intersection are two common set connectives.

Sentences can be ‘connected’ to get a new sentence: the mathematical words ‘and’, ‘or’, and ‘is equivalent to’ are sentence connectives.

For example: if $\,A\,$ is a sentence and $\,B\,$ is a sentence, then ‘$\,A\text{ and }B\,$’ is a compound sentence. The truth of this compound sentence depends upon the truth of the subsentences $\,A\,$ and $\,B\,.$

## Truth Tables

A *truth table* shows how the truth values
of a compound sentence relate to the
truth values of its subsentences.

Here are the definitions of the mathematical words **and**,
**or**, and
**is equivalent to**:

$\,A\,$ | $\,B\,$ | $\,A\text{ and }B\,$ | $\,A\text{ or }B\,$ | $\,A\text{ is equivalent to }B\,$ |

T | T | T | T | T |

T | F | F | T | F |

F | T | F | T | F |

F | F | F | F | T |

Some important observations from the truth table:

- An ‘and’ sentence is true only when both subsentences are true; the English and mathematical uses of ‘and’ are very similar.
- An ‘or’ sentence is true when at least one of the subsentences is true; the English ‘or’ and the mathematical ‘or’ are a bit different (line 1 of the truth table).
- Two sentences are ‘equivalent’ when they have the same truth values: they are both true, or both false. Be careful of line 4 of the truth table!

## Different ways to say ‘is equivalent to’

The idea of mathematical equivalence is so important that there are many ways to say the same thing.

The following four mathematical sentences are equivalent: if one is true, they all are true; if one is false, they all are false. These four sentences are completely interchangeable!

- $A\text{ is equivalent to }B\,$
- $A\text{ if and only if }B\,$
- $A\text{ iff }B\,$ (read aloud as ‘$A$ if and only if $B\,$’)
- $A \,\text{⇔}\, B$ (read aloud as ‘$A$ is equivalent to $B\,$’ or ‘$A$ if and only if $B\,$’)

## Examples

**false**.

**true**.

**true**.

**false**.

**true**.