Proof

Proportions vs. Algebra in Proofs

A new question of the week A simple question about the Basic Proportionality Theorem (which goes by several other names, including Thales’ Theorem) and its relationship to similar triangles leads to some helpful ideas about how to choose a suitable manipulation at each step in a proof, a skill central to good problem solving. In …

Trig Identities: Where’d That Come From?

(A new question of the week) Proving a trigonometric identity can be a challenge; sometimes even when we read someone else’s proof, we can fail to see how they came up with a seemingly magical step. We’ll look at two such identities here, and consider how to bridge a gap when we are stuck.

Proving Two Groups are Isomorphic

(A new question of the week) Two weeks ago, in Proving Certain Polynomials Form a Group, we joined a beginner in learning about groups. Here we will pick up where that left off, learning how to prove that the group we saw there, a subset of polynomials, is isomorphic to a group of matrices. As …

What is Mathematical Induction?

Last week’s exploration of a problem involving the Fibonacci sequence, has led me to delve into that and related concepts. In order to say much about the Fibonacci numbers, we have to first explore the concept of proof by mathematical induction. We’ll introduce it here, and then dig deeper next time.

Disappearing Area?

We’ve been looking at dissection puzzles, where we cut an object into pieces, and rearrange them. Here we’ll examine a mystery posed by two different puzzles, each of which seems to change the area by rearranging the pieces. The answer combines the marvelous Fibonacci numbers and [spoiler alert!] how easily we misjudge areas.

Writing a Proof: Substance, then Style

(A new question of the week) A question from last month provides an opportunity to show how to develop an algebraic proof of a combinatorial identity involving factorials. We’ll be looking over Doctor Rick’s shoulder as he guides a student through the maze. I’ll also add in a previously published version of the same proof …

A Proof Problem: Chords and Tangents

One thing we enjoy doing is guiding a student through the process of problem-solving. Here is a problem from August that illustrates how to think through a complicated geometrical proof. In particular, this uses some circle theorems involving chords, secants, and tangents, together with a bit of algebra. The problem Here is the problem (I’ve …

More Handshake Problems

Last week we looked at problems about counting diagonals in a polygon, and the very similar problem of counting handshakes when everyone in a group shakes with everyone else. In the course of searching for those problems, I also found some very different problems that are also about handshakes. We’ll look at those here, just …

Proof by Contrapositive with Quantifiers

(A new question of the week) Last week we looked at a recent question about an attempt to write a proof using the contrapositive, which was foiled by difficulty in negating a statement. Two weeks later, we had another question about the same sort of issue, but with a different problem in the negation. In …

The Opposite of Even is Odd … or Not?

(A new question of the week) A recent question raised some interesting issues related to the contrapositive of a logical statement, and how to negate a statement, similar to some past discussions. What universe you are in makes a big difference! Proof by contrapositive The question came from Kalyan, in June: My question is this: …