# Creature Knowledge DC and Arithmetic Notation

### General Discussion

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Starfinder Superscriber

According to p. 133, the DC to identify a creature of average rarity is "10+1-1/2×creature's CR".

I'm pretty sure the intention is for (say) a CR 20 creature to be DC 40 to identify. However, that's not what's written. There are two problems.

First: 1-1/2 is not 1.5 or 3/2, it's 1/2.

Second: standard order of operations means you multiply and divide before adding and subtracting; where two operators are of equivalent precedence (e.g. × and /), you do the operations from left to right. So, if you have a CR20 creature, you start with 10, add 1 to get 11, and then subtract 1/2 times the creature's CR, or 10, to get to 1.

I know what's meant, and what most people will understand it to mean. But what's meant isn't what's written. Standard mathematical notation would lead you to conclude that a CR 20 creature of average rarity is DC 1 to identify.

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Starfinder Charter Superscriber

"1-1/2" is apparently a legitimate way to write 1.5, even though I see why it could be confusing.

Apparently, in space we don't like decimals or the metric system!

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It's not written from a mathematician's viewpoint, it's written from a writers viewpoint. Writers, unless the individual happens to have more than a basic understanding of math, will tend to use layman's terms when writing math.

"1-1/2" is the layman's terms for 1.5 or 3/2.

This style of writing is extremely common in the construction world, as well, as it's the standard notation for writing fraction of an inch.

So what we have here is a writer who is more familiar with a layman's or construction style of writing fractions, rather than a mathematician's style of writing.

(On another note, is there an RPG that actually takes into account order of operations when writing equations?)

Starfinder Superscriber

A pity we don't like the metric system.

I haven't found anywhere other than Pathfinder and Starfinder that suggests "1-1/2" equals "1+1/2".

I'm particularly confused why they do this given that there are glyphs for ½. Why not just use the glyph and write "1½"? That fits the typographic standard, and doesn't introduce something that looks like subtraction.

Here is a bunch if 1-1/2 inch binders for sale.

Here is a 1-1/2 inch conduit.

If you want to claim they're only a half inch, go ahead, but you'd be wrong.

It's not 1 minus 1/2, it's 1 dash 1/2. There's an entire world that uses 1-1/2 to mean 1.5. And that world is more popular than the mathematical world.

Symbols and words have different uses across different fields.

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I'd add that 1-1/2 is pronounced "one and a half." Very common in the United States, so I didn't know that not everyone was familiar with the notation.

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Insight wrote:
I'd add that 1-1/2 is pronounced "one and a half." Very common in the United States, so I didn't know that not everyone was familiar with the notation.

Living in the US, I wasn't aware that anyone used such terrible notation. The point of notation is to remove ambiguity, not add it. (which 'it's a dash not a minus sign, honest' certainly does).

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Shows up in an engineering world quite often as well.

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Voss wrote:
Living in the US, I wasn't aware that anyone used such terrible notation.

You'll see more of it once you get out of school.

OpenOffice has a "fraction" format which will auto-convert numbers to look like that.

bookrat wrote:
Voss wrote:
Living in the US, I wasn't aware that anyone used such terrible notation.
You'll see more of it once you get out of school.

Paizo apparently has an obsession with dashes. To see it, just go look through the submissions for RPG SuperStar. Specifically, look at the feedback on the early round submissions. That, alone, convinced me to never take part in RPG SuperStar. There are several (yes, SEVERAL!) different types of dashes in the publishing world, apparently.

Starfinder Superscriber

There are at least four different types of dashes, and they do have different meanings. Which seems absurd, because the average person looking at them is not going to be able to tell the meaning very easily. So, they really matter more from a typographic aesthetic point of view, similar to kerning and ligature, than from a "which symbol do I use to mean this thing" point of view. I learned this stuff back when I learned LaTeX.... And, now, it does bother me when I see something that's supposed to be a subtraction sign but is a dash.

So, when somebody writes "1-1/2", and the glyph for dash (U+002D) is used rather than the subtraction glyph (U+2212), they may be able to legitimately claim that that is the same as "one-and-a-half". However, I don't think it's reasonable to ask somebody looking at a printed page to be able to tell the difference between - and −, at least when they're not next to each other. (You see a dash all by itself; is it -, −, –, or —? If you get your computer to tell you the Unicode code point for each of those four things, you'll see that they're different... but looking at one all by itself, without going and finding the Unicode encoding, it's not easy to figure out which you're looking at.)

Interestingly, I see that 1-1/2 is used throughout Pathfinder, and it never bugged me. I think when it's in the middle of a paragraph, I didn't notice it; I read it as text. But when it shows up in an offset equation, such as on p.133 of Starfinder in and a bunch of other places in the Skills chapter, it bothers me a lot, because it really looks like subtraction there.

I haven't been able to find any style guide that suggests that "1-1/2" is the right, or even an acceptable, substitution for "1 1/2" or "1½". Can somebody point me to one?

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rknop wrote:
According to p. 133, the DC to identify a creature of average rarity is "10+1-1/2×creature's CR".

I opened up my book and discovered that your quote isn't accurate.

It's not 10+1-1/2×CR

It's 10 + 1-1/2 × CR

Notice the difference?

They put spaces between each sign, but no space where the dash is located. The lack of space signifies that 1-1/2 is a single item by itself, and not 1 minus 1/2.

rknop wrote:
I haven't been able to find any style guide that suggests that "1-1/2" is the right, or even an acceptable, substitution for "1 1/2" or "1½". Can somebody point me to one?

Starfinder Superscriber

...

Spaces are not recognized mathematical operators that change subtraction into addition.

Starfinder Superscriber
bookrat wrote:
rknop wrote:
I haven't been able to find any style guide that suggests that "1-1/2" is the right, or even an acceptable, substitution for "1 1/2" or "1½". Can somebody point me to one?

Those are both advertising -- product pages. They're also in text context, not in a set-off equation.

I'm looking for an actual accepted style guide that says you should do things this way.

This has been one of the biggest points of contingency for this game. I'm assuming many people came from Pathfinder, and yet 1-1/2 notation is also used in that game.

It's used for the same reason that Pathfinder's encumbrance rules were on a chart instead of being presented as an algorithm. It's the same reason you round off decimals instead of just adding them together. RPGs already requires quite a bit of (albeit basic) math, and new players are going to be turned when they open a book and see equations, decimals, and formulas. It's pretty standard practice to simplify any math as much as possible in RPG's. Pathfinder and Starfinder are not the first to do so - they're just one of the ones that still wants to have that math without it being a big deal (the 1-1/2).

Note, too, that for equations written in standard text, spaces indicate separation of symbols and numbers. 1-1/2 is "one and one-half", 1 - 1/2 is "one minus one-half". Multiplication is written as 10 + 2 x 1, not 10+2x1 (which reads more like "ten plus two x one", which implies multiplying 2 and 1 by a variable).

As far as "[The notation] in text context", so is the 1-1/2 you see frequently in the book. As far as I've seen, no equations in the book are set apart from the text.

Quick edit: Also, that was probably easier to write it like that than using "½" for editing, formatting, and printing purposes (you'd have to insert that symbol as a symbol every time and make sure the program you and all your coworkers are using can recognize it instead of just writing 1-1/2), which I imagine is why they didn't just use that.

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The 1-1/2 notation is indeed used frequently in Pathfinder, especially when referring to strength bonuses and using both hands.

It's a pretty cool and avant garde RPG, don't feel bad if you haven't heard of it.

Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Note that, if we're nitpicking, "10 + 1-1/2 × CR" is not an equation; it's just a term.

Also, the Starfinder Core Rulebook is not a mathematics textbook, and it is OBVIOUS what is meant here. The OP's argument is silly and simply contrarian in my view. (And I say this as someone who's studies mathematics.)

rknop wrote:
bookrat wrote:
rknop wrote:
I haven't been able to find any style guide that suggests that "1-1/2" is the right, or even an acceptable, substitution for "1 1/2" or "1½". Can somebody point me to one?

Those are both advertising -- product pages. They're also in text context, not in a set-off equation.

I'm looking for an actual accepted style guide that says you should do things this way.

You won't find one. Publishers will want to use 1.5 because it's less space, ink and ambiguity.

Most writing style guides for humanities will tell you to use text to write out numbers (one and a half), with specific exceptions (such as years) based on discipline.

Writing style guides for sciences will go for least ambiguous and frown at the use of fractions, as they're less precise. So 1.5 again.

It's an odd carryover from 3.5 D&D that doesn't have any particular reason to exist, beyond to prompt questions like this one (and this isn't the first time it has come up).

rknop wrote:
bookrat wrote:
rknop wrote:
I haven't been able to find any style guide that suggests that "1-1/2" is the right, or even an acceptable, substitution for "1 1/2" or "1½". Can somebody point me to one?

Those are both advertising -- product pages. They're also in text context, not in a set-off equation.

I'm looking for an actual accepted style guide that says you should do things this way.

I do think that's the distinction. In text context it seems so natural it's hard to even notice. The more it looks part of a set off equation the weirder it seems and the more likely it gets noticed.

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These are the most inane comments. Everyone knows what it means. C'mon, man.

The focus on writing style guides is fairly telling. Writing style guides are heavily emphasised in school, but beyond that most professionals tell you to ignore them (except, of course, the people who write and sell the guides). By the time I was in grad school, all my advisors told me to forget what the style guides said and go with what is standard for the industry.

Since I've completed school, I've never even heard or seen a writing style guide used or even brought up in conversation. I know several professional writers who say the same thing.

As for where the notation is used outside of Paizo - lumber and construction are the two most common.

Go to any home improvement store or lumber yard, and you'll see it all over the place. Talk to anyone in construction, electrical wiring, manufacturing, maintenance, and a host of other real world fields which don't require college and you'll see it in abundance.

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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Paizo has an internal style guide, and the format is consistent with that. That's how it works.

Starfinder Superscriber
Zaister wrote:

Note that, if we're nitpicking, "10 + 1-1/2 × CR" is not an equation; it's just a term.

Also, the Starfinder Core Rulebook is not a mathematics textbook, and it is OBVIOUS what is meant here. The OP's argument is silly and simply contrarian in my view. (And I say this as someone who's studies mathematics.)

Well, I'm sorry I don't live up to your expectations of how a sensible person is supposed to think.

But, I when I first read those formulae (Zaister is right, they're not equations), I had to take a mental step back as I thought "what?" Yes, by knowing Pathfinder and knowing what sorts of things are expected, once you think about it, it's obvious. But if somebody were reading this RPG for the first time, it might not be. And, I think it's a poor argument to say "it's OK to write something that's technically wrong because it's obvious what they meant".

Re: it being too hard to use ½, I consider that a spurious argument. Paizo uses InDesign, and it's well capable of using various glyphs. Heck, I'm typing this in a web forum on Firefox, and I don't find it particularly difficult.

Re: Paizo having an internal style guide and that making it right, I'm arguing that their internal style guide would be better served by making "1½" the style rather than "1-1/2".

Engineering student in Canada: "1½" and. 1-1/2 are common for describing part/tool sizes, measurement and stuff. 1-1/2 is also used in the math way coming out to 1.5. It takes a bit of context to know which is which

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rknop wrote:
"it's OK to write something that's technically wrong because it's obvious what they meant".

Everyone's been trying to tell you this, but... It's not technically wrong. It's correct for the region in which it comes from. You not liking it doesn't make it "technically wrong".

In some places in Europe, decimal notation uses commas instead of full-stops, and for longer numbers, it uses full-stops instead of commas. This makes "one-thousand" be written as "1.000", and "zero-point-three" be written as "0,3". Many books are written with such notation, and this is about as "wrong" as pronouncing the letter "z" by itself as "zed".

In some parts North America, particularly in the western parts, this is an accepted alternative form of notation to write out "1.5" without the inclusion of decimals - particularly in the context of a sentence (where the period may then look like it's separating the 5 into a sentence of its own). Using "1½" is also appropriate, but they're both correct.

If you have a problem with that, build a time machine and stop it from ever being taught that way in the first place, because it's larger than just Paizo.

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US notations are weird. And from what I'm reading, this is a US-only thing, apparently associated with using the Imperial system.

Thing is, no one else does it that way, which is why it's so confusing.

I mean it's common sense though right? I don't live in the US but it didn't even occur to me that it would be anything other than 1.5 because as levels increase, the challenge increases? I mean I can kind of see where there could be confusion but you don't have to think very hard to make sense of it. Plus some people in the UK do write like this for measurements (though it's usually in meters) mainly when they're older generations.

Wikrin wrote:
These are the most inane comments. Everyone knows what it means. C'mon, man.

Starfinder Superscriber

It is technically wrong. 1-1/2" standing by itself may be a standard in some places, but in a mathematical formula such as the one I called out in the original post, a dash indicates subtraction. Sorry, but that's what it means. So, yeah, I can figure out what they meant to say, but it's not what they said.

Especially given how easy it would have been to just use 1½, it's perplexing that they chose this notation that is ambiguous at best, incorrect at worst.

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Matthew Downie wrote:
Wikrin wrote:
These are the most inane comments. Everyone knows what it means. C'mon, man.
This is not true.

One person, three years ago, was confused.

Reminds me of when our new procurement guy messed up an order, because he thought we only had 20 units instead of 20.000 units.

If you're also confused, the second one is twenty thousand.

Welcome to cultural differences in nomenclature. Just because you personally aren't used to the nomenclature, doesn't mean it's wrong.

bookrat wrote:
The focus on writing style guides is fairly telling. Writing style guides are heavily emphasised in school, but beyond that most professionals tell you to ignore them (except, of course, the people who write and sell the guides). By the time I was in grad school, all my advisors told me to forget what the style guides said and go with what is standard for the industry.

The 'standard for the industry' would be... the style guide for that industry. Just calling it the 'standard' rather than a 'style guide' doesn't change what it is- adhering to the best practices of that particular profession. Regardless of whether it's formally written up as a style guide, it fills the same role.

In this particular case, best practices would be to minimize potential ambiguity and increase readability. But Paizo is its own publisher, so it reinforces what they're used to internally, regardless of reception by a wider audience, unused to their practices.

Quote:
Since I've completed school, I've never even heard or seen a writing style guide used or even brought up in conversation. I know several professional writers who say the same thing.

Then they're fooling themselves. The 'style guide' for writers is dictated by their publishers. They will enforce their desired format of notations and layout on manuscripts.

I've certainly dealt with that enough, trying to fight over an index that would actually be readable rather than merely concise.

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Voss wrote:

The 'standard for the industry' would be... the style guide for that industry. Just calling it the 'standard' rather than a 'style guide' doesn't change what it is- adhering to the best practices of that particular profession.

I've certainly dealt with that enough, trying to fight over an index that would actually be readable rather than merely concise.

That's a fair argument. We're talking about semantic differences here, and they can be brushed side by claiming that it's essentially the same thing.

Take that back to the original request of "show me a style guide/industry standard where it's acceptable." Something the OP has requested in this thread.

Since most of these internal industry style guides/standards aren't published to the public, it makes it rather difficult to show. However, we have one person claiming that Paizo's internal style guide/standard has it, and that should be enough. But apparently it isn't.

So we have a person who's demanding evidence via style guide and when one is presented, the evidence is dismissed as not good enough.

In fact, all evidence of this type of notation being used has been dismissed as not good enough, so at this point I'm not sure anything will convince him.

Starfinder Superscriber

Oh, come. Don't misrepresent what I say.

I would like to see something somewhere that indicates that this is an accepted way to do things. I have not seen evidence of a style guide; I've only seen an assertion that there is an internal style guide. If Paizo has just decided internally to do it this way, then I would argue that they've made a bad decision, for all the reasons I gave above. Everything I've been able to find in terms of actual style guides don't give 1-1/2 as something that you should use in writing; they all indicate either 1 1/2 or, better, 1½. So, I've found a bunch of evidence that the dash for a mixed integer/fraction is not accepted in general writing. As I said, in text, it doesn't matter that much. In a formula, it's bad.

So hardware stores and machine shops will list sizes this way when listing materials. So what? When you write out a formula, you're using a notation that indicates subtraction, and that's not a good thing to do. And they're writing out formulae. This is the real point here. It's ambiguous. The formula says something different from what they mean to say. This is the problem. Regardless of whether you can find that usage in other contexts, or even if they consciously decided to do this, they're writing formulae that are wrong. I'm baffled that people don't think that this could be a problem.

Starfinder Superscriber

...and, no, nothing's going to convince me that writing a subtraction where you don't want to subtract is correct.

bookrat wrote:
Just because you personally aren't used to the nomenclature, doesn't mean it's wrong.

Never said it was 'wrong'. I was always able to glork that 'one minus one divided by two' means 'one and a half' from the context.

I just don't like the claim that a local convention for writing numbers is something 'everyone knows'. How many countries would you have to live in before you could make a sweeping statement like that?

Matthew Downie wrote:
bookrat wrote:
Just because you personally aren't used to the nomenclature, doesn't mean it's wrong.
Never said it was 'wrong'. I was always able to glork that 'one minus one divided by two' means 'one and a half' from the context.

True. My apologies for claiming you did. It wasn't you, specifically, but it has been said in this thread.

Quote:
I just don't like the claim that a local convention for writing numbers is something 'everyone knows'. How many countries would you have to live in before you could make a sweeping statement like that?

How close of a rounding error would you like?

Because we're now at 3 people out of the tens of thousands that play this game and didn't have an issue with it. Just going off the Industry Report by Roll20, they had 22,507 unique Pathfinder players in Q1 of 2017, so that's 99.986% of players who didn't have an issue with it. That's pretty close to everyone, to the point where saying 'everyone knows' is accurate enough.

And if we subtract those players who were at first confused, but then learned otherwise, we're down to 1 person.

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
rknop wrote:
...and, no, nothing's going to convince me that writing a subtraction where you don't want to subtract is correct.

Except that's quite clearly not what they did, you briefly misread something, happens to all of us now and again. It's an incredibly common form of writing 1.5. It's taught in schools, it's taught in technical programs, it's used very often in construction, engineering, and a host of other trades. We get that you were unfamiliar with its usage, that does not make it wrong.

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Squeakmaan wrote:
rknop wrote:
...and, no, nothing's going to convince me that writing a subtraction where you don't want to subtract is correct.
Except that's quite clearly not what they did, you briefly misread something, happens to all of us now and again. It's an incredibly common form of writing 1.5. It's taught in schools, it's taught in technical programs, it's used very often in construction, engineering, and a host of other trades. We get that you were unfamiliar with its usage, that does not make it wrong.

Wasn't taught in any engineering course I took, as that's mixed notation and would have been marked incorrect. Ive never seen it used in the context of equations outside of Pathfinder (I have seen 1-1/2 as a measurement notation but that's not an equation). "1 1/2" (while bad its not as bad), "1.5", "3/2" are all better than "1-1/2". And I find it hard to believe anyone that actually works meaningfully with equations would approve of the notation.

bookrat wrote:

How close of a rounding error would you like?

Because we're now at 3 people out of the tens of thousands that play this game and didn't have an issue with it. Just going off the Industry Report by Roll20, they had 22,507 unique Pathfinder players in Q1 of 2017, so that's 99.986% of players who didn't have an issue with it. That's pretty close to everyone, to the point where saying 'everyone knows' is accurate enough.

And if we subtract those players who were at first confused, but then learned otherwise, we're down to 1 person.

Now, now. Don't play those kind of statistical games. You can't make a claim based on people who bothered to post about it on the official message board as representative of people who have a problem with it.

No one on either side can draw on a meaningful statistical sample- it isn't a useful talking point for anyone, because it hasn't been measured, and won't be.

Starfinder Superscriber
Squeakmaan wrote:
rknop wrote:
...and, no, nothing's going to convince me that writing a subtraction where you don't want to subtract is correct.
Except that's quite clearly not what they did, you briefly misread something, happens to all of us now and again. It's an incredibly common form of writing 1.5. It's taught in schools, it's taught in technical programs, it's used very often in construction, engineering, and a host of other trades. We get that you were unfamiliar with its usage, that does not make it wrong.

In formulae?

Look, I can accept that it's a standard for writing things by themselves or in the middle of text. I don't like the standard, but it is in some places.

But is it standard usage in a formula? If you have a number and then a + and then a number and then a -, how is one supposed to know that the - is part of building a word, and not a subtraction? Yes, we can figure it out here because we know what it ought to be, but we can also figure out that the Icon's theme knowledge is supposed to decrease the DC of certain checks even though the word actually used in the text is "increase"....

In a formula, - indicates subtraction if it's not clearly called out otherwise. I'm very dubious that this notation is a standard for use in a formula anywhere. If so, it's a terrible standard designed to create confusion and misunderstanding.

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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Society Subscriber
rknop wrote:
If you have a number and then a + and then a number and then a -, how is one supposed to know that the - is part of building a word, and not a subtraction?

Spaces are meaningful in text. In this case, the '+' operator is set off by spaces, whereas the hyphen is not. This clearly indicates the two are being used differently.

Starfinder Superscriber

...clearly? The vagaries of blank space between symbols in a proportional font is a very hazardous way to decide the mathematical meaning of something.

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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Try looking for the English meaning, then. It's a roleplaying game, not a proof.

As an European, I find the nomenclature weird and counterintuitive, but it's not the first time Paizo uses that nomenclature. STR damage for 2 handed weapons is the most obvious.

So although looks strange to me, and it's not something I'd use naturally, I could understand what it says.

I still think 1.5x is clearer, FWIW

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rknop wrote:
...clearly? The vagaries of blank space between symbols in a proportional font is a very hazardous way to decide the mathematical meaning of something.

rknop wrote:

A pity we don't like the metric system.

I haven't found anywhere other than Pathfinder and Starfinder that suggests "1-1/2" equals "1+1/2".

I'm particularly confused why they do this given that there are glyphs for ½. Why not just use the glyph and write "1½"? That fits the typographic standard, and doesn't introduce something that looks like subtraction.

A good reason not to use the specific glyph is that the text isn't just going to be printed professionally. If you use it, then you are at the mercy of every PDF reader getting it right (and legible on every device) or your customers will complain. They won't complain to the PDF software author, but to you, the one who chose to use that glyph instead of an easy to read way of presenting the info.

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Calth wrote:
Squeakmaan wrote:
rknop wrote:
...and, no, nothing's going to convince me that writing a subtraction where you don't want to subtract is correct.
Except that's quite clearly not what they did, you briefly misread something, happens to all of us now and again. It's an incredibly common form of writing 1.5. It's taught in schools, it's taught in technical programs, it's used very often in construction, engineering, and a host of other trades. We get that you were unfamiliar with its usage, that does not make it wrong.
Wasn't taught in any engineering course I took, as that's mixed notation and would have been marked incorrect. Ive never seen it used in the context of equations outside of Pathfinder (I have seen 1-1/2 as a measurement notation but that's not an equation). "1 1/2" (while bad its not as bad), "1.5", "3/2" are all better than "1-1/2". And I find it hard to believe anyone that actually works meaningfully with equations would approve of the notation.

I see it every day at my job, when the engineers write paperwork, they always use fractions because that's what the mechanics are trained to read. They don't say use the 1.75 in. wrench they say use the 1-3/4 in. wrench.

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