Robert Kern Curtis
02/07/04

What is a trapezoid?

When I was teaching a remedial mathematics course a number of years ago at Hackensack High School, I learned that the answer to this question depends on where you are! Several of my students had grown up on the island of Jamaica. They could not believe that our textbook and I could be so mistaken. I was interested in their difficulty and discovered that on Jamaica (and in most of the English speaking world) what I grew up calling a trapezoid, "a quadrilateral with two and only two sides parallel," is called a trapezium and what we in the United States call a trapezium, "a quadrilateral with no sides parallel," is called a trapezoid in these other places.

A third definition of a trapezoid, "a quadrilateral with two sides parallel," is used in Korea and some European countries. (With this definition a parallelogram is a trapezoid.)

This is all something like the fact that a billion in the U.S., is equal to a thousand million (1,000,000,000 or 109) and a billion in England is equal to a million million (1,000,000,000,000 or 1012).

Check out trapezium, trapezoid, quadrilateral, and billion.

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