Questions tagged [proofs]

For questions about mathematical proofs in an educational context.

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13
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3answers
7k views

Good examples of proof by contradiction?

In later courses on automata theory, many students just seem incapable of getting a proof that a language isn't regular right, be it using the pumping lemma (see also the many questions on the matter ...
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2answers
220 views

Missing Step in Most Proofs of the Irrationality of $\sqrt{2}$ [closed]

Numerous online resources parrot the usual proof by contradiction of the irrationality of $\sqrt{2}$. These all rely upon the assumption that the rational form (say, $a/b$) is in its simplest ...
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7answers
2k views

Teaching logic with a proof assistant

I am thinking about teaching a university-level "introduction to proofs" class (mainly for math and CS majors) making use of a computer proof assistant like Coq. I feel like there is a lot of ...
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24answers
7k views

Good, simple examples of induction?

Many examples of induction are silly, in that there are more natural methods available. Could you please post examples of induction, where it is required, and which are simple enough as examples in a ...
4
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1answer
75 views

What are ideas and strategies on improving at discovering counterexamples? [closed]

What are ideas and strategies on improving at discovering counterexamples? I originally posed this as an Example Question.
28
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8answers
3k views

Is there a good age/level to start learning mathematical proofs?

I know from my experience I learnt proofs myself way before I learnt them in school and I felt it gave me a far better understanding of math. What is a good point to start learning proofs? what are ...
13
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5answers
762 views

Descriptive Thinking vs. Formal Writing

Sometimes I come across some exam answers which describe a proof sketch or a counterexample very well but are not written formally. Such proofs show that a particular student understands the general ...
23
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5answers
963 views

Inability to work with an arbitrary mathematical object

This question is motivated by student responses to homework and quiz problems I have recently posed in an undergraduate real analysis course. I will share some examples and observations first, to ...
11
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5answers
1k views

Book request: teaching proving and reasoning at an American university

I am a European postdoc who recently teaching at a large public university in the United States. I will have to teach a course for undergraduate students that introduces them to proving and reasoning ...
7
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3answers
258 views

Transitioning proof based math courses online

I'd love to learn from anyone's recent experiences teaching online proof based math courses, especially those that have a large group of students who will be working asynchronously. My usual proof ...
7
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2answers
421 views

Logic and proofs in secondary school

Inspired by the question When do college students learn rigorous proofs?, I became curious when pupils in secondary schools learn about proofs, what kinds of proofs they are, how rigorously they are ...
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6answers
1k views

How to get better at proofs

As an undergrad student of applied mathematics, I have something to say that make's me ashamed of myself. I suck at proving things in mathematics and i know that if I don't get better in doing this ...
5
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2answers
202 views

What is “mastery” in a mathematical topic?

This question was prompted by looking at Khan Academy's website to see how a comprehensive lecture series could be done and often I see the word, "mastery". To me, I'd think mastery is ...
13
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11answers
4k views

When do college students learn rigorous proofs?

I teach in a regional university. In my department, students take their "proof course" (a course that sole focus on writing proofs) in the third or even fourth year. All the courses before ...
14
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2answers
312 views

The use of “$\therefore$” and “$\because$”

In schools, many students learn the usage of "$\therefore$" and "$\because$" in proofs. Such three-dot notation are popular in many high-school books and exams, but are almost ...
7
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2answers
188 views

Do you teach different proofs or calculations of same question?

Recently I asked a question on math.stackechange about the most ways to differentiate the same function and it didn't seem to generate any interest - rather, the reason why I'd ask such a question was ...
17
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7answers
3k views

Why do some linear algebra courses focus on matrices rather than linear maps?

I hope the essence of the question is clear from the title. There are obvious advantages to making the linear map the central notion of a linear algebra course: the notion can be illustrated with ...
4
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2answers
186 views

What would you recommend for the math thinking course for school?

We're going to make a new math course for kids as intermediary between middle and high school with math profile (for preparation to entrance exams to high school), and before the main part (arithmetic,...
12
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1answer
714 views

Proof by contradiction - more than one case

I am looking for some examples of when proof by contradiction is used in a problem with more than one case. In all the elementary examples, there are only two options (eg rational/irrational, ...
20
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1answer
328 views

Taxonomy of bad proofs

I am interested in finding examples of poorly written proofs that exemplify the types of mistakes made by undergraduate students in their first year or two of writing proofs. I am interested both in ...
4
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5answers
314 views

Patterns that unexpectedly fall apart at large $n$

I am constructing a learning sequence for middle grade students designed to convince them that empirical arguments (arguments by example) are not sufficient in mathematics. To motivate this, I am ...
4
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2answers
415 views

Euclid Book 1 Proposition 4 [closed]

In Euclid's The Elements, Book 1, Proposition 4, he makes the assumption that one can create an angle between two lines and then construct the same angle from two different lines. I do not see ...
12
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2answers
406 views

Teaching logic through “high school algebra”?

I am going to be teaching a discrete math class in the fall. One of the major goals of the course is a solid understanding of the basics of logic: the precise meanings of "and", "or", "not", "implies"...
5
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2answers
218 views

Are there mathematical proof info-graphics?

I am teaching mathematical proof to kids (10th grade) and am of the opinion that proofs of theorems are a good place to start, where almost all of mathematics' important players come together. On ...
1
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1answer
163 views

How to improve mathematical skills(University level)?

I am doing Ph.D in Mathematics, I feel I lack few of the skills, if I can improve those skills I think I can do better as a Math scholar. I need some suggestion on these following(below I am talking ...
8
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1answer
585 views

An alternative to “two column” geometry proofs

I'm a high school teacher in New York State (US), starting in on my first year of teaching Geometry. One of the things that really intrigues me is that the Regents exam (the state-mandated final exam)...
44
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22answers
17k views

How to explain Monty Hall problem when they just don't get it

Talking to some friends, I was asked to explain the answer to the Monty Hall problem (see also here;) .... they were having some trouble because whoever explained it to them didn't do a very good job. ...
13
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4answers
770 views

Proofs that make theorems less clear

Teaching Theory of Computation for the first time, I encountered a phenomenon which perhaps is familiar to others in different contexts. I realize most MESE participants are not conversant with Th....
12
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4answers
326 views

Collaboration on math homework assignments?

There is considerable evidence that pair programming, when executed properly, both increases the accuracy of the code produced and enhances the learning of both participants. I wonder if anyone has ...
68
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21answers
18k views

Why are induction proofs so challenging for students?

This forum already has many good, simple examples of induction proofs, a great resource. As I am soon to teach induction for the $n^\textrm{th}$ time—this time to some perhaps under-prepared ...
9
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1answer
156 views

Motivation vs. Rigor

This is such a vague topic that I hesitate to post. I constantly struggle between the time-tradeoff between motivating a topic, and delving into the rigorous details necessary to fully "grok" the ...
16
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3answers
897 views

Is it natural for self-learners to forget most proofs of the theorems they learn?

When I read a theorem and read its proof and fully understand it, am I supposed to know the proof even after a long time or is it natural to forget the it? I ask this question as I'm a self learner ...
7
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4answers
381 views

Writing up a proof that assumes what is to be proven?

I was working on this question on math, where (among other things), the OP was asked to prove that $$x \oplus y=\sqrt[3]{x^3+y^3}$$ is associative. After some prompting, the offered proof was $$\...
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5answers
1k views

Should my 8th graders see a proof of the Pythagorean Theorem?

I've been teaching the Pythagorean Theorem in my 8th grade class, and I noticed something odd. In the book I'm using, the sequence goes something like this: Motivate the idea of distances on a grid ...
11
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1answer
384 views

Using number theory instead geometry to introduce proof in Basic School?

It seems there is an overall agreement that Geometry is the right place to introduce proof in Basic School. However, number theory (arithmetic) looks like to be a more simple environment (consider, ...
14
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1answer
1k views

Proving theorems on one's own: how long should one persist?

I've recently started learning linear algebra on my own. I always try to prove the theorems I encounter by myself, without looking at the book (only to check if my proof is correct), because I found ...
9
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3answers
257 views

How to motivate students to do proofs?

I am finding it difficult to motivate students on why they should how to prove mathematical results. They learn them just to pass examinations but show no real interest or enthusiasm for this. How can ...
2
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2answers
221 views

Learning proofs in introductory analysis courses

I have browsed the website a lot and I encountered many similar questions but not a question that asks the same question as I intend to. In introductory undergraduate classes in Analysis, usually, ...
6
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2answers
267 views

A question from a young student to mathematicians

I'm a young math student. And I live with the effort of always wanting to understand everything I study, in mathematics. This means that for every thing I face I must always understand every single ...
6
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5answers
653 views

Is it a problem if a senior student majoring in mathematics could not prove the quadratic formula?

According to a recent experiment conducted by user Steven Gubkin, nearly one half of his students in a senior level Real Analysis course do not have any idea how to prove the quadratic formula. Is ...
15
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7answers
423 views

Should theorems be proved to students who are not majoring in mathematics?

My impression to students majoring in mathematics is, whenever we teach them a theorem, a proof should be given in the class, or at least as a reading assignment. However, how about students not ...
7
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6answers
943 views

is it appropriate or beneficial to mention weird results in math?

Is it appropriate to mention weird/exciting results in math (or use as cautionary tales why one cannot apply mathematics naively) in say high school level? Examples of these results include the ...
14
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9answers
5k views

Why do inequalities flip signs? [closed]

Is there a mathematical reason (like a proof) of why this happens? You can do it with examples and it is 'intuitive.' But the proof of why this happens is never shown in pedagogy, we just warn ...
7
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0answers
125 views

Is there any example of a “forwards/backwards” induction?

I like to make the "dominoes" analogy when I teach my students induction. I recently came across the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BTWiZ7CYoI In this video, a sequence of ...
8
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2answers
402 views

Should students be given partial scores when they gave an incomplete proof by contradiction?

In a quiz, there was a question asking students to show something doesn’t exist. A lot of them gave proofs by contradiction. Initially, I designed the marking scheme so that an incomplete proof by ...
13
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5answers
322 views

Unique steps leading to a non-unique answer

When asked to show a math problem has a unique solution, students sometimes think that if an algorithm leading to a solution has unambiguous instructions at each step (no need to make choices at any ...
3
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2answers
339 views

How is it correct for a lecturer to prove and “explain” a proof while explicitly knowing students are not familiar with logic itself?

I often see a situation when professors use words "logic", "mathematical proof" and even prove logically while actually knowing that students are not even familiar with logic itself, i.e. no formal ...
2
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6answers
436 views

Undergraduate Math Seminar topic

** Edit Thanks everyone for some great suggestions. I should have been more clear though. I am actually looking for a college level proof that pertains to algebra or leads to algebra in some form. ...
3
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2answers
413 views

Why are proofs written in flowery language incomprehensible?

Let's take an example in Wu-Ki Tung, Group theory in physics: Theorem 3.4: Irreducible representations of any abelian group must be of dimension one. Proof: Let $U(G)$ be an irreducible ...
19
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3answers
672 views

Constructive refutation of student misconception

Although @Gareth Shepherd recently posted Addressing fundamental math errors close to the issue, I experienced my problem of misunderstanding in class, where two good K10 students were asked to ...