For questions about the formulation of a proof, not about the mathematics behind it.

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219
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15answers
10k views

Can every proof by contradiction also be shown without contradiction?

Are there some proofs that can only be shown by contradiction or can everything that can be shown by contradiction also be shown without contradiction? What are the advantage/disadvantages of proving ...
115
votes
10answers
8k views

Why do people use “it is easy to prove”?

Math is not generally what I am doing, but I have to read some literature and articles in dynamic systems and complexity theory. What I noticed is that authors tend to use (quite frequently) the ...
84
votes
14answers
9k views

Why are mathematical proofs that rely on computers controversial?

There are many theorems in mathematics that have been proved with the assistance of computers, take the famous four color theorem for example. Such proofs are often controversial among some ...
77
votes
14answers
5k views

Formal proof for $(-1) \times (-1) = 1$

Is there a formal proof for $(-1) \times (-1) = 1$? It's a fundamental formula not only in arithmetic but also in the whole of math. Is there a proof for it or is it just assumed?
77
votes
4answers
12k views

Can an irrational number raised to an irrational power be rational?

Can an irrational number raised to an irrational power be rational? If it can be rational, how can one prove it?
64
votes
4answers
24k views

Proof by contradiction vs Prove the contrapositive

What is the difference between a "proof by contradiction" and "proving the contrapositive"? Intuitive, it feels like doing the exact same thing. And when I compare an exercise, one person proves by ...
49
votes
13answers
3k views

What is a proof?

I am just a high school student, and I haven't seen much in mathematics (calculus and abstract algebra). Mathematics is a system of axioms which you choose yourself for a set of undefined entities, ...
47
votes
7answers
3k views

Could I be using proof by contradiction too much?

Lately, I've developed a habit of proving almost everything by contradiction. Even for theorems for which direct proofs are the clear choice, I'd just start by writing "Assume not" then prove it ...
47
votes
2answers
2k views

On a long proof

On wikipedia there is a claim that the Abel–Ruffini theorem was nearly proved by Paolo Ruffini, and that his proof spanned over $500$ pages, is this really true? I don't really know much abstract ...
46
votes
9answers
9k views

Is an irrational number odd or even?

My sister just asked this question to me: "Is an irrational number odd or even?" I told her that decimals are not odd or even and that does imply that not recurring and non repeating decimals will ...
44
votes
8answers
6k views

How does a non-mathematician go about publishing a proof in a way that ensures it to be up to the mathematical community's standards? [closed]

I'm a computer science student who is a maths hobbyist. I'm convinced that I've proven a major conjecture. The problem lies in that I've never published anything before and am not a mathematician by ...
43
votes
2answers
1k views

A strange integral: $\int_{-\infty}^{+\infty} {dx \over 1 + \left(x + \tan x\right)^2} = \pi.$

While browsing on Integral and Series, I found a strange integral posted by @Sangchul Lee. His post doesn't have a response for more than a month, so I decide to post it here. I hope he doesn't mind ...
43
votes
7answers
2k views

When working proof exercises from a textbook with no solutions manual, how do you know when your proof is sound/acceptable?

When working proof exercises from a textbook with no solutions manual, how do you know when your proof is sound/acceptable? Often times I "feel" as if I can write a proof to an exercise but most ...
37
votes
6answers
2k views

Why do we write proofs “forward?”

I am aware that this might turn into a discussion, but I have a feeling this might have an answer (maybe something historical?) instead. I'm hoping that those with speculations keep it in the ...
36
votes
11answers
6k views

How can you prove that the square root of two is irrational?

I have read a few proofs that $\sqrt{2}$ is irrational. I have never, however, been able to really grasp what they were talking about. Is there a simplified proof that $\sqrt{2}$ is irrational?
32
votes
3answers
1k views

English words in written mathematics

I recently marked over $100$ assignments for a multivariable calculus course. One question which a lot of people did poorly was proving a given set was open. Aside from issues relating to rigour and ...
31
votes
5answers
3k views

Is it okay to reverse engineer proofs in homework questions?

In a linear algebra text book, one homework question I received was: Prove that $\mathbf{a \cdot b} = \frac{1}{4}(\|\mathbf{a + b}\|^2 - \|\mathbf{a - b}\|^2)$. Where $\mathbf{a}$ and ...
30
votes
5answers
2k views

Level of Rigor in Mathematical Physics

I am a physics/math undergrad and I have recently become familiar with some more rigorous formalisms of mechanics, such as Lagrangian mechanics and Noether's Theorem. However, I've noticed that the ...
29
votes
4answers
4k views

Why do proof authors use natural language sentences to write proofs?

I haven't read very many proofs. The majority of the ones that I've read, I've read in my first-year proofs textbook. Nevertheless, its first chapter expatiates on the proper use of English in ...
29
votes
5answers
12k views

Use of “without loss of generality”

Why do we use "without loss of generality" when writing proofs? Is it necessary or convention? What "synonym" can be used? Thanks.
29
votes
4answers
2k views

What really is mathematical rigor? How can I be more rigorous?

I'm an undergraduate mathematics student who has received some constructive feedback from two instructors at the end of my exams. Namely, that I am a bit hand-wavey and not always very rigorous. While ...
28
votes
6answers
7k views

Are all prime numbers finite?

If we answer false, then there must be an infinite prime number. But infinity is not a number and we have a contradiction. If we answer true, then there must be a greatest prime number. But Euclid ...
28
votes
9answers
3k views

Why don't Venn diagrams count as formal proofs?

Just curious. If the purpose of a proof is to inform and persuade, why don't Venn diagrams count? Is it just convention or is there a more, umm, formal reason haha. Thanks!
28
votes
6answers
3k views

When has one sufficiently mastered an area of mathematics?

This is a rather soft question regarding the mastery of various mathematical subjects, such as undergraduate subjects. In particular, say, when has one mastered undergraduate analysis? Is it ...
27
votes
2answers
3k views

How would one be able to prove mathematically that $1+1 = 2$?

Is it possible to prove that $1+1 = 2$? Or rather, how would one prove this algebraically or mathematically?
25
votes
15answers
3k views

Is there more to explain why a hypothesis doesn't hold, rather than that it arrives at a contradiction?

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of teaching some maths to a high-school student. She wondered why the following doesn't work: $\sqrt{a+b}=\sqrt{a}+\sqrt{b}$. I explained it as follows (slightly less ...
25
votes
7answers
8k views

how to be good at proving?

I'm starting my Discrete Math class, and I was taught proving techniques such as proof by contradiction, contrapositive proof, proof by construction, direct proof, equivalence proof etc. I know how ...
25
votes
3answers
3k views

Can't find mistake in an easy proof.

Consider the following theorem. $\textbf{Theorem:}$ for any sets $A, B, C, D$, if $A \times B \subseteq C \times D$ then $A \subseteq C$ and $B \subseteq D$. Then the following proof is given. ...
25
votes
4answers
1k views

Are there any common practices in mathematics to guard against mistakes?

It occurred to me that math is somewhat like programming (or vice-versa, if you prefer) because, in both, it is easy to make mistakes or overlook them, and the smallest error or misguided assumption ...
24
votes
7answers
2k views

Can you use both sides of an equation to prove equality?

For example: $\color{red}{\text{Show that}}$$$\color{red}{\frac{4\cos(2x)}{1+\cos(2x)}=4-2\sec^2(x)}$$ In high school my maths teacher told me To prove ...
24
votes
12answers
4k views

How do I make a student understand contradiction?

We were trying to prove that if $3p^2=q^2$ for nonnegative integers $p$ and $q$, then $3$ divides both $p$ and $q$. I finished writing the solution (using Euclid's lemma) when a student asked me ...
23
votes
8answers
4k views

LaTeX/TeX Vs. Mathematica for Typesetting [closed]

I know Mathematica like the back of my hand, but I do not know a speck of $\LaTeX$ or $\TeX$. With regard to mathematical typesetting, is there something significant I can do in $\LaTeX$/$\TeX$ that I ...
23
votes
7answers
25k views

How do I prove that a function is well defined?

How do you in general prove that a function is well-defined? $$f:X\to Y:x\mapsto f(x)$$ I learned that I need to prove that every point has exactly one image. Does that mean that I need to prove the ...
22
votes
10answers
1k views

Prove if $56x = 65y$ then $x + y$ is divisible by $11$

If $x$ and $y$ are natural numbers, and $56x = 65y$, prove that $x + y$ is divisible by $11$. I tried taking the $\gcd(56x,65y)$ using the Euclidean algorithm, but I got nowhere with it and do not ...
21
votes
7answers
3k views

What are some common proof strategies in mathematics?

I want to start out by saying that I am new at proof based mathematics. I am used to seeing patterns and using them to solve similar problems. However, I have found this is not a very good way to ...
21
votes
5answers
4k views

Is a brute force method considered a proof?

Say we have some finite set, and some theory about a set, say "All elements of the finite set $X$ satisfy condition $Y$". If we let a computer check every single member of $X$ and conclude that the ...
21
votes
5answers
1k views

How many faces of a solid can one “see”?

What is the maximum number of faces of totally convex solid that one can "see" from a point? ...and, more importantly, how can I ask this question better? (I'm a college student with little ...
21
votes
1answer
1k views

How to prove convergence of polynomials in $e$ (Euler's number)

These polynomials in $e$ converge to 2$$f(i)=e^i - i \sum_{k=1}^{i-1}\frac{(i-k)^{k-1}{e^{i-k}}{(-1)^{k+1}}}{k!}, \text{ where } i>1$$ This function goes to 2. I've calculated this with sage math ...
20
votes
3answers
1k views

prove $\sqrt{a_n b_n}$ and $\frac{1}{2}(a_n+b_n)$ have same limit

I am given this problem: let $a\ge0$,$b\ge0$, and the sequences $a_n$ and $b_n$ are defined in this way: $a_0:=a$, $b_0:=b$ and $a_{n+1}:= \sqrt{a_nb_n}$ and $b_{n+1}:=\frac{1}{2}(a_n+b_n)$ for all ...
19
votes
10answers
4k views

Critiques on proof showing $\sqrt{12}$ is irrational.

My only exposure to proofs was in a math logic class I took in University. I was wondering if my attempt at proving that $\sqrt{12}$ is irrational is OK. $$\Big(\frac{m}{n}\Big)^2 = 12$$ ...
19
votes
3answers
2k views

How to prove that a very large number is not prime

I'm solving few math problems for an upcoming math contest . I am stuck with a short problem, where I have to prove that $A$ is not prime . $$A = 100\ 000\ 000\ 000\ 000\ 000\ 001$$ $A$ is not a ...
18
votes
6answers
865 views

Difficulty in Mathematical Writing

Lots of people (including myself) face lot of problems in tackling Mathematical Problems, which appear as if we can solve it, but then writing out a solution becomes difficult. Let us consider some ...
18
votes
4answers
2k views

Are professional mathematicians concerned with formalizing infinitely many dependent choices?

I've noticed certain arguments in analysis textbooks which rely on the principle of being able to pick elements infinitely many times. For example, an argument might go "Pick $x_1\in S$ such that ...
18
votes
3answers
23k views

Prove: If a sequence converges, then every subsequence converges to the same limit.

I need some help understanding this proof: Prove: If a sequence converges, then every subsequence converges to the same limit. Proof: Let $s_{n_k}$ denote a subsequence of $s_n$. Note that $n_k ...
18
votes
5answers
292 views

$0.101001000100001000001$… is irrational. [duplicate]

How do I show that $0.101001000100001000001...$ is irrational? How do I generalize this to decimal expansions of a similar type, i.e. what is a criterion for decimal expansions with $0$'s and $1$'s ...
18
votes
3answers
995 views

Proof by induction that $n^3 + (n + 1)^3 + (n + 2)^3$ is a multiple of $9$. Please mark/grade.

What do you think about my first induction proof? Please mark/grade. Theorem The sum of the cubes of three consecutive natural numbers is a multiple of 9. Proof First, introducing a predicate ...
18
votes
4answers
874 views

Advice for writing good mathematics?

It's been a (far-fetched, possibly) goal of mine to some day write a math Textbook. I've been thinking about writing this question for a while, but reading an exceedingly mediocre text on Mathematical ...
18
votes
2answers
702 views

Proofs from the “Ugly Book”

There is a famous saying in mathematics from Paul Erdős: "You don't have to believe in God, but you should believe in The Book." "The Book" is an imaginary book in which God had written down the best ...
18
votes
1answer
787 views

Is there such a thing as a mathematical thesaurus?

I want this for two reasons: When writing proofs, I am constantly in need of synonyms of basic words like thus, there exists, for all, such as, contains, etc. A lot of mathematical concepts have ...
18
votes
2answers
492 views

Question from Putnam '89: Primes of the form $101\ldots01$

I'm not a math major, but would like to compete in the Putnam. As suggested in other questions here, I'm working some old contest problems. I'd like some input on this attempted proof--general input ...