80-110: The Nature of Mathematical Reasoning

Carnegie Mellon University

Spring 2015

Homework 1

At http://www.cut-the-knot.org/pythagoras/, there are 104 different proofs of the Pythagorean theorem.

Look them over, and pick your favorite! In your own words, explain the proof to me. This doesn't have to be a detailed proof like we've discussed, referring to axioms and inference rules; tell me, in natural language, how the proof works to establish the truth of the Pythagorean theorem. Then, in a few sentences each, answer the following two questions:
  1. To what extent is your proof algebraic? That is, does it use variables like x, y, etc. to represent numbers? Does it use algebraic techniques like factoring, or (a+b)*c = a*c + b*c?
  2. How hard would it be to explain your proof to somebody without using pictures? Are the pictures essential to the proof, or do they just help make it easy to follow?