Questions tagged [proofs]

For questions about mathematical proofs in an educational context.

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16
votes
4answers
532 views

How to explain what is wrong in this “proof” that $\sqrt N$ must be irrational?

Here is the problem that I asked undergraduate students of an introductory number theory course to prove: Prove that if $N$ is a nonsquare natural number, then $\sqrt N $ is irrational. Many ...
2
votes
3answers
414 views

When two equivalent algebraic statements have two “different” meanings

Suppose I want to prove $\sqrt{7}$ is not a rational number. I suppose it is and it brings me to a contradiction. Here how it goes line be line: First line. $\sqrt{7}=\frac{m}{n}$ Second line (...
7
votes
2answers
235 views

Ethics of looking at other proofs before submitting work

I am in my third year of undergraduate math, and now that classes are becoming more proof-based, many of my homework questions are proofs of relatively basic concepts that can be found with a quick ...
8
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3answers
265 views

Is proof-based exercise-oriented math course without solution an effective way to teach pure math?

In recent years I have seen several courses in pure math in the undergrad level (year 2, 3, 4) such as real analysis and topology where the entire course consists of: notes written during the lecture ...
9
votes
4answers
629 views

Why are proofs by contradiction counterintuitive?

And how to make them intuitive? We are tasked to prove $P \implies Q$. So we assume $P$ and are trying to prove $Q$. We assume not-$Q$ ($\neg Q$) and derive a contradiction, establishing $Q$. There ...
5
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0answers
168 views

Catalog of undergraduate's misconceptions / problems while proving

Selden & Selden (2011) listed 41 difficulties their students had in an experimental proving course into 9 categories. Unfortunately I haven't found similar work. Thus, my question is: Is there ...
4
votes
0answers
176 views

How to promote more elegant and beautiful proofs by students?

Following the premise that mathematics is an art as well as a science, I want to encourage students to produce not only correct proofs but also to try to find a particular beautiful/elegant proof. ...
13
votes
3answers
220 views

Resource request: incorrect “proofs” for undergrads to correct/critique

I am teaching an intro to proof course for undergraduate math majors at a medium-sized american research university. I would like to provide my students with some incorrect proofs for the purpose of ...
9
votes
1answer
260 views

How do you assign a grade to a proof?

This question is very similar to one I posed two years ago: How to assign grades to proofs: what do(es) theliterature/experts suggest? I would like to ask the more general question of: what do you ...
16
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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 ...
13
votes
4answers
758 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....
8
votes
1answer
218 views

Educational styles for writing proofs

Can someone please point to research papers that analyze different ways of expressing informal proofs from an educational point of view? I am particularly interested in proofs by induction but I would ...
6
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3answers
269 views

Should one justify formulae in middle school?

Consider two possible lesson outlines: Check homework. Show a visual demonstration for the area of a circle, e.g. https://tube.geogebra.org/student/m279 Calculate the area of a circle as an example. ...
14
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0answers
142 views

Research on the use of outlined / structured proofs in instruction

Has there been any research into comparing the effectiveness of using "structured proofs" or "outlined proofs" in higher level mathematics education, compared to traditional "prose" proofs? For the ...
6
votes
5answers
262 views

Different approaches to proofs that “are the same”?

This question (and answers) on MSE got me thinking on simple examples of different ways of proving the same (hopefully somewhat interesting) result, as examples to be discussed on difference in ...
23
votes
11answers
1k views

Why do students like proof by contradiction?

Every-so-often I come across proofs of the form Assume $X$ is false. Prove $X$ is true (without using that it is false). This contradicts that $X$ is false. Hence $X$ is true. I've seen students ...
12
votes
4answers
315 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 ...
9
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1answer
253 views

Advice on Proof-based Math Topics for High Schoolers

I have a handful of high school students that are all prospective math/physics majors and have pooled their resources to hire me to teach them a proof based math course because it has become apparent ...
4
votes
2answers
215 views

If you do not 'read A to Z', then how can you discover the idea? [closed]

The following is from an article in The New Yorker on Y. Zhang and his proof on gaps between primes: Rutgers University Professor [Henryk] Iwaniec and his friend, John Friedlander, a professor at ...
15
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2answers
338 views

Teaching strong induction instead of induction

After teaching induction and then strong induction (i.e. the version where you assume $\forall k<n, P(k)$ and prove $P(n)$), one of my students asked why we ever use ordinary induction, since ...
37
votes
6answers
4k views

What am I supposed to be learning with long proofs of the main theorems in class?

It seems like this is exclusively how (most) people teach graduate/upper div math classes. They go through the proof of some big theorem, sometimes it might take two lectures. It's obviously important....
11
votes
1answer
334 views

Effectiveness of students seeing proofs - reference request

If this is the wrong forum for this post I apologize but I'm not sure of another well-suited medium for this question (and any reference to one is appreciated). I am wondering if any research in ...
13
votes
3answers
587 views

How to use false theorems or proofs?

I would like students to be critical and not believe that every proof they see is correct. Lecturers make mistakes and students should not think: "That must be a valid argument/proof/syntax because it ...
68
votes
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 ...
12
votes
2answers
170 views

Words used in quantifier proofs

I'm creating a list of "gotcha words" that are often used in writing proofs (particularly quantifier proofs), but frequently in more than one possible way, and that beginners frequently misuse or ...
16
votes
2answers
258 views

Teaching the use of pictures in proofs

Today I realized that many of my students in an upper-division undergraduate (projective) geometry class don't really understand how to use pictures in proofs. Some draw no pictures at all, making ...
14
votes
3answers
268 views

How to measure the understandability of a proof?

Is there a way to measure the understandability of a proof? From a search in the internet I have only found methods for measuring the understandability of software or tests for measuring the ...
6
votes
2answers
240 views

Are there automatic solution checkers?

Suppose I would like to make a maths test that one can do by computer and that can be automatically checked by computer. Question: Is there some automatic theorem prover that can check the proofs ...
16
votes
3answers
820 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 ...
18
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3answers
350 views

Critiquing Proof Style During Class

I would like to spend a day with my students analyzing mathematical writing. One way I might accomplish this is to offer multiple proofs (some good, some poor) of the same simple statement and ask ...
6
votes
5answers
1k views

Analogies for mathematical induction

What are the most successful analogies that are used to teach the concept of mathematical induction? To clarify, I am not looking for a formal explanation of the principle of mathematical induction, ...
16
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8answers
2k views

How to teach Mathematical Induction mathematically?

I am exhausted of teaching Mathematical induction to my little brother. I have given him many examples, Domino effect, aligned shops of hot dogs etc and every time he says that he got it but when I ...
11
votes
6answers
1k views

Algebraic Solving and Uniqueness Proofs

The following issue came up in my Intro to Proofs course and I wasn't sure how to explain my distaste of the student proof. Prove that the solution for $x$ in $ax+b=c$ is unique ($a \neq 0$). ...
22
votes
1answer
507 views

Is there a Piagetian age at which proofs can be comprehended?

I am wondering if there is literature on the developmental age (pre-adolescent?, adolescent?) at which the notion of a "proof" can be understood? I am less interested in mathematical proofs and more ...
7
votes
1answer
155 views

Has anyone written anything notable on the relation between mathematical progress and the simplification of proofs overtime?

The author of an answer on math.se remarked that much of mathematical progress is a factor of the accrual of both, theorems, which other mathematicians can use in their proofs, and more efficient ...
34
votes
7answers
4k views

Uninsulting way to say “this will eventually be easy”

When presenting a proof, there are usually a lot of parts which look like "obvious", "routine" manipulation to me, and between zero and two genuinely insightful steps. I want to point out the ...
8
votes
3answers
195 views

How important is building up intuition for a theorem before trying to prove it?

For example, consider trying to prove that: If $A$ is a set and $F \subset P(A)$, then the relation $R := \{(a, b) \in A \times A $ such that for every $X \subset A - \{a, b\}$, if $X \cup \{a\} ...
18
votes
3answers
594 views

How can I discourage proof by patchwork?

I have a student who is working in their spare time on proving or disproving a conjecture of the form $$\exists x.\forall y.\phi(x,y).$$ Right now their strategy is to construct an $x$ and then show ...
16
votes
1answer
307 views

How to assign grades to proofs: what do(es) the literature/experts suggest?

I am teaching an introductory course on proofs in mathematics in a mid-size American public university, and trying to develop some kind of consistent grading meta-scheme for grading proofs. I am ...
12
votes
2answers
266 views

Effectiveness of proofs in secondary education

I'll have a department meeting in about 10 days and I want to bring the subject of proofs up. While most teachers do proofs in the blackboard, I want to argue that we should put problems to prove in ...
10
votes
2answers
293 views

Examples of proofs that use a cycle of implications to prove equivalence

I'm looking for some examples of proofs where it's easier to prove 'cyclical implications' $A\implies B\implies C\implies A$ than to prove $A\iff B$ directly. I can think of some (relatively) ...
15
votes
1answer
257 views

Order of Topics in Introductory Proofs Class

Beginning next semester I am teaching a course in proofs and mathematical problem solving at my local university. For some background, the university is primarily a commuter university and the ...
10
votes
6answers
245 views

A basic game to make arguments about

I think a significant start to my development as a mathematician was playing card games (mostly Euchre) with my parents in my youth. After a particular round, my father would tell me, "Well, with your ...
5
votes
2answers
207 views

On problems which can be proved easier if we use a different induction step

Say we have a property $P$ defined on the natural nubers. Usually students are taught that to pove $P(n)$ is true for all $n\in\mathbb N$ you have to do the following: make a basis and use either ...
7
votes
2answers
451 views

Examples where it easier to prove more than less [duplicate]

Especially (but not only) in the case of induction proofs, it happens that a stronger claim $B$ is easier to prove than the intended claim $A$ since the induction hypothesis gives you more information....
6
votes
4answers
376 views

Intuition behind $\zeta(2) = \frac{\pi^2}{6}$

The result $$\zeta(2) = \frac{\pi^2}{6},$$ tends to amaze young students because of its beauty. However, although in literature there are many proofs of this result, I find that none is suitable for ...
9
votes
1answer
256 views

Selling completeness, extreme value theorem, etc.?

There is a set of related topics in a freshman calc course that includes the completeness axiom for the reals, the intermediate value theorem, extreme value theorem, Rolle's theorem, and mean value ...
14
votes
1answer
991 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
294 views

Grading Computations vs. Grading Proofs: Is there a difference?

For many years, I've been an instructor for lower level undergraduate math classes (precalculus through calculus III). During that time, I've noticed that the vast majority of problems I assigned ...
17
votes
3answers
1k views

“Proof” meaning in maths and society

When we ask students to prove a particular result in a math class, students often reply with examples. For example, if I state: if a number is even its square will be even, and ask the students to ...