Questions tagged [proofs]

For questions about mathematical proofs in an educational context.

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How to internalize solutions/proofs to theorems and exercises?

In particular, my question is about abstract mathematics such as group theory, analysis, topology, etc. where most textbooks are filled with exercises which require proof, and how to go about ...
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20 votes
18 answers
5k views

Math Proofs - why are they important and how are they useful?

My 13yr old has leapt forward in math during the pandemic. He's taking discrete math right now but is running into a bit of a wall with proofs. I have a feeling he needs to find reasons why they can ...
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4 votes
4 answers
611 views

Third isomorphism theorem: how important is it to state the relationship between subgroups?

In texts which present the third isomorphism theorem: $$(G/N)/(H/N) \cong G/H$$ the relationship between the entities is often seen presented in the form: Let $H$ and $N$ be normal subgroups of a ...
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17 votes
4 answers
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Explaining why volume of cone is a third of cylinder

I came across this video explaining to kids why the volume of a cone is a third of the cylinder of same cross-sectional radius and height. Essentially the explainer presents pre-created cylindrical ...
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3 votes
2 answers
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How to understand the book and the material to the deepest possible level?

I'm a first year mathematics major and I have a problem with my learning process. In my university, I only have books and questions that the university published, so I have to learn the most of the ...
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10 votes
4 answers
432 views

Should students in a first university linear algebra class be taught to write simple proofs?

I am teaching an introductory linear algebra courses for undergraduate students in math, computer science, or data science at a liberal art university. Most of the students have not decided their ...
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8 votes
1 answer
145 views

Proofs with Independent Parts

In my Intro to Proofs course I have an activity (more details below) where the goal is to write a collaborative proof of a statement. What makes it work as a whole class activity is that, to prove the ...
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8 votes
2 answers
256 views

Seeking short algebraic proofs that an Algebra2 student can appreciate

There are many many elegant algebraic (more generally, non-geometric) proofs, but fewer of them are both accessible and interesting to a pre-calculus student. Three nice examples of what I'm looking ...
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-2 votes
4 answers
343 views

How can students prognosticate to rewrite the same sum backwards, then add the same sum twice?

This comment doesn't fulfill my students or me, because it doesn't demystify this trick of writing $S_n$ forward, then backwards, then adding. What would spur students to action these unnatural steps? ...
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1 vote
1 answer
182 views

Math outside of undergraduate studies and proofs

I read sometimes mathematical works of others outside my undergraduate studies. I think i can not follow the understanding of the proofs of theorems sometimes. What should i do? Should i read other ...
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  • 165
5 votes
2 answers
3k views

Should proofs include a third “context” column?

Proofs, or any mathematical derivation, appearing in any real setting, such as a book or textbook or talk, or even when we're teaching it in class, includes a great deal of surrounding explanation. ...
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5 votes
4 answers
1k views

How long would it take someone to master the topics in the book "Book of Proof" by Hammack and similar?

If someone never had any experience with mathematical proofs and had only classes like Calc I-III (which he passed, without paying any attention to the proofs present in the textbooks), how long would ...
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14 votes
3 answers
950 views

Is there a measurable learning goal related to understanding proofs of important theorems?

I believe that good math courses are structured around measurable learning goals. For example, "can correctly replace a line integral with an equal double integral using Green's Theorem" or &...
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  • 349
5 votes
4 answers
394 views

Doctorate and examples of difficult solved problems

Okay. My questions are: How do some people do doctorates in mathematics and spend so much time like three to six years trying to answer one or two open problems? How do they have the patience, ...
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  • 165
4 votes
2 answers
785 views

Questions about proofs

To prove, e.g., the identity $(a^2+b^2)(c^2+d^2)=(ac-bd)^2+(ad+bc)^2$, I remembered working, in high school, in the following way. Expanding the LHS gives \begin{equation} (a^2+b^2)(c^2+d^2)=a^2c^2+a^...
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  • 143
2 votes
1 answer
359 views

Solving math problems and learning

Should i solve math problems by writing the answers to papers or notebooks with pencils or should i try solving them in my head at undergraduate studies at university? Also, sometimes after learning ...
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  • 165
14 votes
5 answers
3k views

I want a "true" proof by contradiction of an implication P => Q

When teaching proofs by contradiction of an implication P => Q, one starts by assuming both P and (not Q), and then reaches a contradiction. The problem is, most elementary proofs of this type are &...
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6 votes
4 answers
3k views

How to keep students' attention while teaching a proof?

I taught the proof inclusion-exclusion principle to CS students yesterday. While the proof is not too long, it does involves quite a bit notations. I could feel that most students lost interests a few ...
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-3 votes
1 answer
79 views

Abstract math and making proofs

What is abstract math about? I think we can not visualise probably what we read. Or can we? I am talking about the theorems, definitions and proofs in areas of math like Riemannian geometry, ...
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  • 165
2 votes
4 answers
581 views

Trials and instructions on proofs

So, in more advanced courses and fields in math like undergraduate and more advanced, how does one make a proof? He makes trials of everything he knows about the problem? What are the instructions to ...
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  • 165
7 votes
5 answers
692 views

Example of why proof by exhaustion is inelegant

There's a nice example of why people dislike proof by exhaustion on the Wikipedia page. The problem statement is "prove that all years in which the Modern Olympics are held are divisible by 4&...
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  • 171
1 vote
2 answers
245 views

Should I do all the proof practice problems in How to Prove It, an intro to proofs book?

Like the title says. I am self studying intro to proofs(How to prove it by velleman) so I can start an introduction to analysis. I am wondering if I should complete all the exercises in the textbook(...
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2 votes
1 answer
156 views

Improving exposition of a proof about polynomials over infinite fields

This question concerns teaching a proof of the theorem that if a polynomial $f \in k[x]$ over an infinite field $k$ is the zero function (i.e. $f(a) = 0$ for all $a \in k$) then it is also the zero ...
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7 votes
2 answers
169 views

Is $\overline{AB} \cong \overline{BA}$ usually taught as an instance of the symmetric property of congruence?

I have been tutoring a wide range of math subjects for many years. Recently, I began tutoring a girl in high school geometry (in California, for context). This semester of the course is starting with ...
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  • 823
13 votes
3 answers
522 views

How to teach the Pythagorean theorem in a satisfying way to high school students?

I've been pretty dissatisfied with the way the Pythagorean theorem is usually taught, mainly for two reasons: The chosen proof feels like magic and I don't feel like I have a better understanding of ...
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  • 249
4 votes
3 answers
219 views

Differing Choices of $\delta$ in a Limit

In conceptually motivating the $\epsilon-\delta$ definition and proof of a limit, I realized a new way of choosing the $\delta$. For example, consider $\lim_{x\to 4}\sqrt{x}=2$. In the "standard ...
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23 votes
23 answers
5k views

How can I explain why we need proofs to someone who has no experience in mathematical thinking?

I know someone I really like, but sadly, that person has absolutely no experience in math or mathematical thinking above third grade mathematics (+, - are fine, but division already makes problems). ...
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  • 331
11 votes
4 answers
594 views

How do you teach students about the concept of a proof?

I get this question a lot from new students who are taking their first proof-based math class. They are struggling because they don't have that fluency with proofs, to begin with. They don't know ...
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  • 231
5 votes
0 answers
188 views

A video game for teaching the concept of a mathematical proof

Two students in my game development course would like, as a final project, to develop a video game for teaching mathematics. In contrast to the many other games for teaching maths, which focus mainly ...
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5 votes
1 answer
265 views

How important is it to come up with or learn an elementary solution?

Note: by "elementary" I mean "without using more advanced theory and tools". Students are sometimes required or encouraged to solve very difficult problems using limited number of ...
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-4 votes
2 answers
328 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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8 votes
3 answers
369 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 ...
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5 votes
2 answers
287 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 ...
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7 votes
2 answers
568 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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7 votes
6 answers
2k 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 ...
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  • 87
14 votes
11 answers
5k 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 ...
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14 votes
2 answers
681 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 ...
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  • 1,635
18 votes
8 answers
4k 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 ...
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  • 689
12 votes
1 answer
793 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, ...
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7 votes
2 answers
208 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 ...
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4 votes
2 answers
210 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,...
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  • 103
32 votes
4 answers
1k 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 ...
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4 votes
5 answers
353 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 ...
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4 votes
2 answers
511 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 ...
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5 votes
2 answers
260 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 ...
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1 vote
1 answer
275 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 ...
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8 votes
1 answer
775 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)...
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  • 5,539
9 votes
1 answer
174 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 ...
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7 votes
4 answers
440 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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9 votes
3 answers
312 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 ...
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