86
votes
12answers
11k views

How to convince a math teacher of this simple and obvious fact?

I have in my presence a mathematics teacher, who asserts that $$ \frac{a}{b} = \frac{c}{d} $$ Implies: $$ a = c, \space b=d $$ She has been shown in multiple ways why this is not true: $$ ...
86
votes
11answers
11k views

How can I find the surface area of a normal chicken egg?

This morning, I had eggs for breakfast, and I was looking at the pieces of broken shells and thought "What is the surface area of this egg?" The problem is that I have no real idea about how to find ...
86
votes
12answers
11k views

Can you be 1/12th Cherokee?

I was watching an old Daily Show clip and someone self-identified as "one twelfth Cherokee". It sounded peculiar, as people usually state they're "1/16th", or generally $1/2^n, n \in \mathbb{N}$. ...
86
votes
3answers
6k views

A 1,400 years old approximation to the sine function by Mahabhaskariya of Bhaskara I

The approximation $$\sin(x) \simeq \frac{16 (\pi -x) x}{5 \pi ^2-4 (\pi -x) x}\qquad (0\leq x\leq\pi)$$ was proposed by Mahabhaskariya of Bhaskara I, a seventh-century Indian mathematician. I ...
85
votes
24answers
7k views

What are some examples of notation that really improved mathematics?

I've always felt that the concise, suggestive nature of the written language of mathematics is one of the reasons it can be so powerful. Off the top of my head I can think of a few notational ...
85
votes
3answers
15k views

Why study Algebraic Geometry?

I'm going to start self-stydying algebraic geometry very soon. So, my question is why do mathematicians study algebraic geometry? What are the types of problems in which algebraic geometers are ...
85
votes
1answer
2k views

Is there a characterization of groups with the property $\forall N\unlhd G,\:\exists H\leq G\text{ s.t. }H\cong G/N$?

A common mistake for beginning group theory students is the belief that a quotient of a group $G$ is necessarily isomorphic to a subgroup of $G$. Is there a characterization of the groups in which ...
84
votes
23answers
7k views

Why is there no “remainder” in multiplication

With division, you can have a remainder (such as $5/2=2$ remainder $1$). Now my six year old son has asked me "Why is there no remainder with multiplication"? The obvious answer is "because it ...
84
votes
18answers
18k views

Solving the integral $\int_{0}^{\infty} \frac{\sin{x}}{x} \ dx = \frac{\pi}{2}$?

A famous exercise which one encounters while doing Complex Analysis (Residue theory) is to prove that the given integral: $$\int_{0}^{\infty} \frac{\sin x}{x} \ dx = \frac{\pi}{2}$$ Well, can anyone ...
84
votes
20answers
9k views

Your favourite application of the Baire Category Theorem

I think I remember reading somewhere that the Baire Category Theorem is supposedly quite powerful. Whether that is true or not, it's my favourite theorem (so far) and I'd love to see some applications ...
84
votes
19answers
4k views

Good Physical Demonstrations of Abstract Mathematics

I like to use physical demonstrations when teaching mathematics (putting physics in the service of mathematics, for once, instead of the other way around), and it'd be great to get some more ideas to ...
84
votes
9answers
4k views

How far can one get in analysis without leaving $\mathbb{Q}$?

Suppose you're trying to teach analysis to a stubborn algebraist who refuses to acknowledge the existence of any characteristic $0$ field other than $\mathbb{Q}$. How ugly are things going to get for ...
84
votes
4answers
2k views

Proof of $\frac{1}{e^{\pi}+1}+\frac{3}{e^{3\pi}+1}+\frac{5}{e^{5\pi}+1}+\ldots=\frac{1}{24}$

I would like to prove that $\displaystyle\sum_{\substack{n=1\\n\text{ odd}}}^{\infty}\frac{n}{e^{n\pi}+1}=\frac1{24}$. I found a solution by myself 10 hours after I posted it, here it is: ...
83
votes
15answers
8k views

Infiniteness of non-twin primes.

Well, we all know the twin prime conjecture. There are infinitely many primes $p$, such that $p+2$ is also prime. Well, I actually got asked in a discrete mathematics course, to prove that there are ...
83
votes
7answers
8k views

Is there an elementary proof that $\sum \limits_{k=1}^n \frac1k$ is never an integer?

If $n>1$ is an integer, then $\sum \limits_{k=1}^n \frac1k$ is not an integer. If you know Bertrand's Postulate, then you know there must be a prime $p$ between $n/2$ and $n$, so $\frac 1p$ ...
83
votes
16answers
10k views

Do mathematicians, in the end, always agree?

I've been trying to study some different sciences in my life, ranging from biology to mathematics, and if I try to explain to people why I like mathematics above the others, I think the most important ...
83
votes
3answers
8k views

Topology: The Board Game

Edit: I've drawn up some different rules, a map and some cards for playing an actual version of the game. They're available at my personal website with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. ...
82
votes
18answers
9k views

Is there another simpler method to solve this elementary school math problem?

I am teaching an elementary student. He has a homework as follows. There are 16 students who use either bicycles or tricycles. The total number of wheels is 38. Find the number of students using ...
82
votes
4answers
8k views

How do I convince someone that $1+1=2$ may not necessarily be true?

Me and my friend were arguing over this "fact" that we all know and hold dear. However, I do know that $1+1=2$ is an axiom. That is why I beg to differ. Neither of us have the required mathematical ...
82
votes
17answers
14k views

How do you find the center of a circle with a pencil and a book?

Given a circle on a paper, a pencil and a book. Can you find the center of the circle with the pencil and book?
82
votes
7answers
6k views

How to read a book in mathematics?

How is it that you read a mathematics book? Do you keep a notebook of definitions? What about theorems? Do you do all the exercises? Focus on or ignore the proofs? I have been reading Munkres, Artin, ...
82
votes
4answers
3k views

Least prime of the form $38^n+31$

I search the least n such that $$38^n+31$$ is prime. I checked the $n$ upto $3000$ and found none, so the least prime of that form must have more than $4000$ digits. I am content with a probable ...
82
votes
2answers
3k views

Connected metric spaces with disjoint open balls

Let $X$ be the $S^1$ or a connected subset thereof, endowed with the standard metric. Then every open set $U\subseteq X$ is a disjoint union of open arcs, hence a disjoint union of open balls. Are ...
81
votes
12answers
15k views

Are there real-life relations which are symmetric and reflexive but not transitive?

Inspired by Halmos (Naive Set Theory) . . . For each of these three possible properties [reflexivity, symmetry, and transitivity], find a relation that does not have that property but does have ...
81
votes
6answers
5k views

Is non-standard analysis worth learning?

As a former physics major, I did a lot of (seemingly sloppy) calculus using the notion of infinitesimals. Recently I heard that there is a branch of math called non-standard analysis that provides ...
81
votes
1answer
3k views

$4494410$ and friends

The number $4494410$ has the property that when converted to base $16$ it is $44944A_{16}$, then if the $A$ is expanded to $10$ in the string we get back the original number. ...
80
votes
20answers
5k views

Proving the identity $\sum_{k=1}^n {k^3} = \big(\sum_{k=1}^n k\big)^2$ without induction

I recently proved that $$ \sum_{k=1}^n k^3 = \left(\sum_{k=1}^n k \right)^2 $$ Using mathematical induction. I'm interested if there's an intuitive explanation, or even a combinatorial ...
80
votes
30answers
11k views

What is the single most influential book every mathematician should read?

If you could go back in time and tell yourself to read a specific book at the beginning of your career as a mathematician, which book would it be?
80
votes
12answers
8k views

Logic puzzle: Which octopus is telling the truth?

King Octopus has servants with six, seven, or eight legs. The servants with seven legs always lie, but the servants with either six or eight legs always tell the truth. One day, four servants met. ...
80
votes
10answers
4k 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" by Paul Hoffman and came across the concept of countable and uncountable ...
80
votes
3answers
3k views

True or false? $x^2\ne x\implies x\ne 1$

Today I had an argument with my math teacher at school. We were answering some simple True/False questions and one of the questions was the following: $$x^2\ne x\implies x\ne 1$$ I immediately ...
79
votes
8answers
4k views

Self-Contained Proof that $\sum\limits_{n=1}^{\infty} \frac1{n^p}$ Converges for $p > 1$

To prove the convergence of $$\sum_{n=1}^{\infty} \frac1{n^p}$$ for $p > 1$, one typically appeals to either the Integral Test or the Cauchy Condensation Test. I am wondering if there is a ...
79
votes
4answers
6k views

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 ...
79
votes
21answers
46k views

Software for drawing geometry diagrams

What software do you use to accurately draw geometry diagrams?
78
votes
10answers
9k views

Mathematician vs. Computer: A Game

A mathematician and a computer are playing a game: First, the mathematician chooses an integer from the range $2,...,1000$. Then, the computer chooses an integer uniformly at random from the same ...
78
votes
4answers
4k views

What is the smallest number of $45^\circ-60^\circ-75^\circ$ triangles that a square can be divided into?

What is the smallest number of $45^\circ-60^\circ-75^\circ$ triangles that a square can be divided into? The image below is a flawed example, from http://www.mathpuzzle.com/flawed456075.gif ...
77
votes
16answers
7k views

Why did mathematicians take Russell's paradox seriously?

Though I've understood the logic behind's Russell's paradox for long enough, I have to admit I've never really understood why mathematicians and mathematical historians thought it so important. Most ...
77
votes
10answers
10k views

Why can't you add apples and oranges, but you can multiply and divide them?

What is the algebraic difference between arithmetic operations, that prevents entities with different units from being summed or subtracted, but allows them to be multiplied or divided? This looks ...
77
votes
18answers
8k views

Fastest way to meet, without communication, on a sphere?

I was puzzled by a question my colleague asked me, and now seeking your help. Suppose you and your friend* end up on a big sphere. There are no visual cues on where on the sphere you both are, and ...
77
votes
4answers
2k views

Does $R[x] \cong S[x]$ imply $R \cong S$?

This is a very simple question but I believe it's nontrivial. I would like to know if the following is true: If $R$ and $S$ are rings and $R[x]$ and $S[x]$ are isomorphic as rings, then $R$ and $S$ ...
77
votes
1answer
2k views

Number of simple edge-disjoint paths needed to cover a planar graph

Let $G=(V,E)$ be a graph with $|E|=m$ of a graph class $\mathcal{G}$. A path-cover $\mathcal{P}=\{P_1,\ldots,P_k\}$ is a partition of $E$ into edge-disjoint simple paths. The size of the cover is ...
76
votes
19answers
11k views

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?
76
votes
11answers
4k views

Why does factoring eliminate a hole in the limit?

$$\lim _{x\rightarrow 5}\frac{x^2-25}{x-5} = \lim_{x\rightarrow 5} (x+5)$$ I understand that to evaluate a limit that has a zero ("hole") in the denominator we have to factor and cancel terms, and ...
76
votes
6answers
40k views

What is the importance of eigenvalues/eigenvectors?

What is the importance of eigenvalues/eigenvectors?
76
votes
22answers
9k views

The Best of Dover Books (a.k.a the best cheap mathematical texts)

Perhaps this is a repeat question -- let me know if it is -- but I am interested in knowing the best of Dover mathematics books. The reason is because Dover books are very cheap and most other books ...
76
votes
14answers
8k 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 ...
76
votes
8answers
21k views

Learning mathematics as if an absolute beginner?

I dread mathematics, and I believe it's because I have come to associate mathematics with the experience of terrible teachers. All of my math teachers have been grumpy, but one in particular was the ...
75
votes
23answers
18k views

Complete course of self-study

I am about $16$ years old and I have just started studying some college mathematics. I may never manage to get into a proper or good university (I do not trust fate) but I want to really study ...
75
votes
10answers
5k views

Would you ever stop rolling the die? [duplicate]

You have a six-sided die. You keep a cumulative total of your dice rolls. (E.g. if you roll a 3, then a 5, then a 2, your cumulative total is 10.) If your cumulative total is ever equal to a perfect ...
75
votes
6answers
4k views

Prove elementarily that $\sqrt[n+1] {(n+1)!} - \sqrt[n] {n!}$ is strictly decreasing

Prove without calculus that the sequence $$L_{n}=\sqrt[n+1] {(n+1)!} - \sqrt[n] {n!}, \space n\in \mathbb N$$ is strictly decreasing.

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