Proof and the Art of Mathematics: Examples and Extensions

A companion volume to my proof-writing book, Proof and the Art of Mathematics.

  • J. D. Hamkins, Proof and the Art of Mathematics: Examples and Extensions, MIT Press, 2021.  
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Now available!

From the Preface:

The best way to learn mathematics is to dive in and do it. Don’t just listen passively to a lecture or read a book—you have got to take hold of the mathematical ideas yourself! Mount your own mathematical analysis. Formulate your own mathematical assertions. Consider your own mathematical examples. I recommend play—adopt an attitude of playful curiosity about mathematical ideas; grasp new concepts by exploring them in particular cases; try them out; understand how the mathematical constructions from your proofs manifest in your examples; explore all facets, going beyond whatever had been expected. You will find vast new lands of imagination. Let one example generalize to a whole class of examples; have favorite examples. Ask questions about the examples or about the mathematical idea you are investigating. Formulate conjectures and test them with your examples. Try to prove the conjectures—when you succeed, you will have proved a theorem. The essential mathematical activity is to make clear claims and provide sound reasons for them. Express your mathematical ideas to others, and practice the skill of stating matters well, succinctly, with accuracy and precision. Don’t be satisfied with your initial account, even when it is sound, but seek to improve it. Find alternative arguments, even when you already have a solid proof. In this way, you will come to a deeper understanding. Test the statements of others; ask for further explanation. Look into the corner cases of your results to probe the veracity of your claims. Set yourself the challenge either to prove or to refute a given statement. Aim to produce clear and correct mathematical arguments that logically establish their conclusions, with whatever insight and elegance you can muster.

This book is offered as a companion volume to my book Proof and the Art of Mathematics, which I have described as a mathematical coming-of-age book for students learning how to write mathematical proofs.

Spanning diverse topics from number theory and graph theory to game theory and real analysis, Proof and the Art shows how to prove a mathematical theorem, with advice and tips for sound mathematical habits and practice, as well as occasional reflective philosophical discussions about what it means to undertake mathematical proof. In Proof and the Art, I offer a few hundred mathematical exercises, challenges to the reader to prove a given mathematical statement, each a small puzzle to figure out; the intention is for students to develop their mathematical skills with these challenges of mathematical reasoning and proof.

Here in this companion volume, I provide fully worked-out solutions to all of the odd-numbered exercises, as well as a few of the even-numbered exercises. In many cases, the solutions here explore beyond the exercise question itself to natural extensions of the ideas. My attitude is that, once you have solved a problem, why not push the ideas harder to see what further you can prove with them? These solutions are examples of how one might write a mathematical proof. I hope that you will learn from them; let us go through them together. The mathematical development of this text follows the main book, with the same chapter topics in the same order, and all theorem and exercise numbers in this text refer to the corresponding statements of the main text.

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