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OLLI at SOU > Register for Courses > Science, Technology, Engineering & Math

The Elegance of Mathematical Proofs   

Philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote, “The pure mathematician, like the musician, is a free creator of his world of ordered beauty.” While some might say that “mathematician” and “beauty” shouldn’t appear in the same sentence, there are many who appreciate the elegance of certain mathematical proofs, their simplicity and clarity, combined with clever reasoning, and perhaps a visually pleasing aspect. In a mix of lecture and discussion, we will look at accessible proofs that illustrate the beauty found in mathematics and the strategies math enthusiasts use to prove assertions. Here’s an example: A classroom has 25 students, seated in a 5-by-5 square array. To create a new seating arrangement, the teacher told students to move to a new seat, each of them moving to the one just in front, just in back, just to the left, or just to the right of their current seats. Prove that the task is impossible. All are welcome, and no prerequisite knowledge is required. Let’s have fun doing math together!

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