Mathematical intuition is the instinctive impression regarding mathematical ideas which originate naturally without regard to formal mathematical proofs. It may or may not stem from a cognitive rational process.

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What's an intuitive way to think about the determinant?

In my linear algebra class, we just talked about determinants. So far I’ve been understanding the material okay, but now I’m very confused. I get that when the determinant is zero, the matrix doesn’t ...
29
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5answers
2k views

Dominoes and induction, or how does induction work?

I've never really understood why math induction is supposed to work. You have these 3 steps: Prove true for base case (n=0 or 1 or whatever) Assume true for n=k. Call this the induction ...
72
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10answers
3k views

Different kinds of infinities?

Can someone explain to me how there can be different kinds of infinities? I was reading "the man who loved only numbers" and came across the concept of countable and uncountable infinities, but ...
16
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4answers
2k views

Motivation behind standard deviation?

Let's take the numbers 0-10. Their mean is 5, and the individual deviations from 5 are -5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 And so the average (magnitude of) ...
32
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7answers
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How can I understand and prove the “sum and difference formulas” in trigonometry? (cos(a ± b) = …, etc.)?

The "sum and difference" formulas often come in handy, but it's not immediately obvious that they would be true. \begin{align} \sin(\alpha \pm \beta) &= \sin \alpha \cos \beta \pm \cos \alpha ...
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14answers
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Intuitive Understanding of the constant “e”

Potentially related-questions, shown before posting, didn't have anything like this, so I apologize in advance if this is a duplicate. I know there are many ways of calculating (or should I say ...
43
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4answers
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Do you prove all theorems whilst studying?

When you come across a new theorem, do you always try to prove it first before reading the proof within the text? I'm a CS undergrad with a bit of an interest in maths. I've not gone very far in my ...
20
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3answers
18k views

Why is the area under a curve the integral?

I understand how derivatives work based on the definition, and the fact that my professor explained it step by step until the point where I can derive it myself. However when it comes to the area ...
56
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9answers
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Intuition behind Matrix Multiplication

If I multiply two numbers, say $3$ and $5$, I know it means add $3$ to itself $5$ times or add $5$ to itself $3$ times. But If I multiply two matrices, what does it mean ? I mean I can't think it ...
108
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7answers
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Intuition for the definition of the Gamma function?

In these notes by Terence Tao is a proof of Stirling's formula. I really like most of it, but at a crucial step he uses the integral identity $$n! = \int_{0}^{\infty} t^n e^{-t} dt$$ coming from ...
19
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2answers
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Motivation behind Definition of Matrix Multiplication

I have just watched the first half of the 3rd lecture of Gilbert Strang on the open course ware with link: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathematics/18-06-linear-algebra-spring-2010/video-lectures/ It ...
27
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20answers
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Could you explain why $\frac{d}{dx} e^x = e^x$ “intuitively”?

As the title implies, It is seems that $e^x$ is the only function whoes derivative is the same as itself. thanks.
10
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6answers
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Intuitive Explanation of Bessel's Correction

When calculating a sample variance a factor of (N-1) appears instead of N (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sample_variance#Population_variance_and_sample_variance ). Does anybody have an intuitive ...
90
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5answers
5k views

In (relatively) simple words: What is an inverse limit?

I am a set theorist in my orientation, and while I did take a few courses that brushed upon categorical and algebraic constructions, one has always eluded me. The inverse limit. I tried to ask one of ...
14
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7answers
1k views

Why in an inconsistent axiom system every statement is true? (For Dummies)

I would like to know if someone can explain in a somehow down to earth (almost logic free) way why is it true that in an axiom system where there is some statement $P$ such that $P$ and its negation ...
5
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3answers
745 views

Convergence of the series $\sum \limits_{n=2}^{\infty} \frac{1}{n\log^s n}$

We all know that $\displaystyle \sum_{n=1}^{\infty} \frac{1}{n^s}$ converges for $s>1$ and diverges for $s \leq 1$ (Assume $s \in \mathbb{R}$). I was curious to see till what extent I can push the ...
71
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4answers
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What are the Axiom of Choice and Axiom of Determinacy?

Would someone please explain: What does the Axiom of Choice mean, intuitively? What does the Axiom of Determinancy mean, intuitively, and how does it contradict the Axiom of Choice? as simple ...
33
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5answers
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Intuitive interpretation of the Laplacian

Just as the gradient is "the direction of steepest ascent", and the divergence is "amount of stuff created at a point", is there a nice interpretation of the Laplacian (a.k.a. divergence of gradient)? ...
51
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9answers
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What makes elementary functions elementary?

Is there a mathematical reason (or possibly a historical one) that the "elementary" functions are what they are? As I'm learning calculus, I seem to focus most of my attention on trigonometric, ...
14
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8answers
2k views

How to understand compactness? [duplicate]

How to understand the compactness in topology space in intuitive way?
13
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5answers
3k views

One divided by Infinity?

Okay, I'm not much of a mathematician (I'm an 8th grader in Algebra I), but I have a question about something that's been bugging me. I know that $0.999 \cdots$ (repeating) = $1$. So wouldn't $1 - ...
157
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28answers
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Too old to start math

I'm sorry if this question goes against the meta for posting questions - I attached all the "beware, this is a soft-question" tags I could. This is a question I've been asking myself now for some ...
45
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4answers
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Connection between Fourier transform and Taylor series

Both Fourier transform and Taylor series are means to represent functions in a different form. My question: What is the connection between these two? Is there a way to get from one to the other (and ...
40
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14answers
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Surprising Generalizations

I just learned (thanks to Harry Gindi's answer on MO and to Qiaochu Yuan's blog post on AoPS) that the chinese remainder theorem and Lagrange interpolation are really just two instances of the same ...
66
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16answers
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How do you explain the concept of logarithm to a five year old?

Okay I understand that it cannot be explained to a 5 year old. But, how do you explain the logarithm to primary school students?
16
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3answers
2k views

Why is it so hard to find the roots of polynomial equations?

The question that follows was inspired by this question: When trying to solve for the roots of a polynomial equation, the quadratic formula is much more simple than the cubic formula and the cubic ...
13
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3answers
951 views

Why are polynomials defined to be “formal”?

Despite the fact that $\forall n, n^3 + 2n \equiv 0 \pmod 3$, I understand that $n^3 + 2n$ (considered as a polynomial with coefficients in $\mathbb Z/3\mathbb Z$) is not equal to the zero polynomial. ...
3
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3answers
226 views

Why the principle of counting does not match with our common sense

Principle of counting says that "the number of odd integers, which is the same as the number of even integers, is also the same as the number of integers overall." This does not match with my ...
14
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2answers
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Axiom of Choice Examples

In the wikipedia article, two examples are given which use/ do not use the axiom of choice. They are: Given an infinite pair of socks, one needs AC to pick one sock out of each pair. Given an ...
50
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12answers
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Intuitive explanation of Cauchy's Integral Formula in Complex Analysis

There is a theorem that states that if $f$ is analytic in a domain $D$, and the closed disc {$ z:|z-\alpha|\leq r$} contained in $D$, and $C$ denotes the disc's boundary followed in the positive ...
43
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4answers
5k views

Why do we care about dual spaces?

When I first took linear algebra, we never learned about dual spaces. Today in lecture we discussed them and I understand what they are and everything, but I don't really understand why we want to ...
27
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6answers
2k views

Motivation for spectral graph theory.

Why do we care about eigenvalues of graphs? Of course, any novel question in mathematics is interesting, but there is an entire discipline of mathematics devoted to studying these eigenvalues, so ...
18
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7answers
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Why do we require a topological space to be closed under finite intersection?

In the definition of topological space, we require the intersection of a finite number of open sets to be open while we require the arbitrary union of open sets to be open. why is this? I'm assuming ...
8
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7answers
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Can this standard calculus result be explained “intuitively”

Recently I stumbled upon someone who said he wanted to understand why $\arctan x = \int\dfrac{dx}{1+x^2}$ At first I was confused. This is an easy result in any integral calculus course. But then he ...
11
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3answers
1k views

Intuition for uniform continuity of a function on $\mathbb{R}$

I understand the formal definition of uniform continuity of a function, and how it is different from standard continuity. My question is: Is there an intuitive way to classify a function on ...
17
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4answers
513 views

Intuition for $\omega^\omega$

I'm trying to understand the ordinal number $\omega^\omega$ and I'm having a hard time. I think I understand what $\omega^2$ is. It's what I would get if I took countably many copies of $\omega$ and ...
8
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3answers
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Intuitive explanation of the Fundamental Theorem of Linear Algebra

Can someone explain intuitively what the Fundamental Theorem of Linear Algebra states? and why specifically it is called the above? Specifically, what makes it 'Fundamental' in the broad scope of the ...
9
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5answers
995 views

The definition of metric space,topological space

I have read some books in analysis,all of them define metric space,topological space or vector space directly,without any reason. Therefore, I want to know the background of the definition, the ...
5
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1answer
189 views

Equivalences of continuity, sequential convergence iff limit (S.A. pp 106 t4.2.3, 110 t4.3.2)

1. This post became too long, ergo I moved this here. 2. I questioned anew here. How does $\color{red}{(I) \implies (III)}$? This contradicts $a \le b \not \implies \Leftarrow a < b$. 3. ...
2
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1answer
123 views

Understanding the “Birthday Problem”

I found on this website http://www.cut-the-knot.org/do_you_know/coincidence.shtml proof that the probability of two people in a room having the same birthday equates to 50% when when there are 23 ...
2
votes
2answers
373 views

Insidious exponential integral

I hope that someone's up for the challenge; I'm attempting to solve this via computer: \begin{equation} \int_{-\pi}^\pi{\displaystyle \frac{e^{i\cdot a\cdot t}(e^{i\cdot b\cdot t}-1)(e^{i\cdot c ...
46
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4answers
2k views

Algebra: Best mental images

I'm curious how people think of Algebras (in the universal sense, i.e., monoids, groups, rings, etc.). Cayley diagrams of groups with few generators are useful for thinking about group actions on ...
25
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6answers
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Intuition behind conjugation in group theory

I am learning group theory, and while learning automorphisms, I came across conjugation as an example in many textbooks. Though the definition itself, (and when considering the case of abelian ...
28
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4answers
2k views

Can someone explain the Yoneda Lemma to an applied mathematician?

I have trouble following the category-theoretic statement and proof of the Yoneda Lemma. Indeed, I followed a category theory course for 4-5 lectures (several years ago now) and felt like I understood ...
32
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8answers
2k views

Why do we restrict the definition of Lebesgue Integrability?

The function $f(x) = \sin(x)/x$ is Riemann Integrable from $0$ to $\infty$, but it is not Lebesgue Integrable on that same interval. (Note, it is not absolutely Riemann Integrable.) Why is it we ...
24
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8answers
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Looking for an intuitive explanation why the row rank is equal to the column rank for a matrix

I am looking for an intuitive explanation as to why/how row rank of a matrix = column rank. I've read the proof at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rank_of_a_linear_transformation and I understand the ...
23
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3answers
729 views

Intuition on fundamental theorem of arithmetic

I'm sorry ahead if time if this is overly trivial for this site. Currently in school, much of what I enjoy is number theory - based. Currently, I lean pretty heavily on the FTA for a good deal of my ...
17
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6answers
5k views

What is the 'implicit function theorem'?

Please give me an intuitive explanation of 'implicit function theorem'. I read some bits and pieces of information from some textbook, but they look too confusing, especially I do not understand why ...
22
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2answers
810 views

Is it misleading to think of rank-2 tensors as matrices?

Having picked up a rudimentary understanding of tensors from reading mechanics papers and Wikipedia, I tend to think of rank-2 tensors simply as square matrices (along with appropriate transformation ...
10
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3answers
646 views

Intuition of Addition Formula for Sine and Cosine

The proof of two angles for sine function is derived using $$\sin(A+B)=\sin A\cos B+\sin B\cos A$$ and $$\cos(A+B)=\cos A\cos B-\sin A\sin B$$ for cosine function. I know how to derive both of the ...