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Insights or any clever discoveries you guys have came across working math problems

  1. Apr 20, 2007 #1
    I was reading the general discussion section and noticed that someone came with a thread about cleaver ideas. I was thinking that there may be some clever ideas, tricks, or insights that many of you experienced mathematicians may have come across. If you have anything you think it is of worth I am very interested in it. It doesn't have to be world changing discoveries, it could be anything from something minor to something major.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2007 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

  4. Apr 20, 2007 #3
    nice... thanks, but the cover of the book don't make it look like a very respectable book. I ordered a used one through amazon for nearly the shipping price.:tongue:
  5. Apr 20, 2007 #4


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    My greatest insight was "Gosh, I'm spending way too much time on this!"
  6. Apr 20, 2007 #5


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    Check out this method of doing multiplication.

    With love, Feynman.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  7. Apr 20, 2007 #6

    Gib Z

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    That methods pretty good for 2 digit numbers but I tried 252 x 482. It wasn't fun at all, and I found it somewhat problematic when it had to carry over the tens digit, I got confused. Either way, Go Feynman! Woot!

    As for discoveries, when it comes to minor things I happened to notice and prove the sum of the geometric series [itex]\sum_{n=0}^{\infty} \frac{1}{x^n}[/itex] when I was 9 years old fooling around on a calculator. That was before I even knew trig so I thought i was a real genius "discovering" that, stupid me. It was a real sad shock when I studied series from a textbook, let me tell you that :D
  8. Apr 20, 2007 #7

    Gib Z

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    This suits more the thread berkeman posted, but http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_arithmetic reminded me of some stuff.

    Theres the simple thing that when ever I multiply things that aren't too many digits and the ending digit is somewhat small, its always good to do this:

    Lettings alphabetic characters represent digits - (abc)(def) = (ab0 + c)(de0 + f) then a binomial expansion. Helps more than you think.

    And newtons method works well on alot of things, but i use it mostly for square roots. I use taylor series to the first 3 terms when doing sins, cosines and exponentials (base e). For tans, i dont actually use the taylor series for tan, but divide the sin and cos, I hate tans taylor series.
  9. Apr 20, 2007 #8


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    read "what is mathematics".
  10. Apr 20, 2007 #9
    Wow:bugeye: Amazing. Was it Feynman that popularized it? I'm very curious what process let that person to that discovery?
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  11. Apr 20, 2007 #10


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    Well, the little description of the video reads...

    "An American physicist Richard Feynman developed this technique to graphically solve quantum field theory equations (actually to get approximations) that could not be solved otherwise. He got Nobel Price in physics for those "Feynman's diagrams"
  12. Apr 20, 2007 #11
    Lol good one Wonk. You are quite the Zen master.
  13. Apr 22, 2007 #12
    I wish there was a book of cool and clever tricks for things pivotal to other areas of math (such as solving integral tricks and algebra ones too). I always find such tricks to be quite elegant and mesmerizing. Does anyone know of such a book?
  14. Apr 22, 2007 #13
    Are you talking about Courant's book?
  15. Apr 22, 2007 #14

    Chris Hillman

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    Some suggested reading for those seeking nifty arguments

    I dunno why no-one has mentioned some obvious citations:

    The enjoyment of mathematics; selections from mathematics for the amateur, by Hans Rademacher and Otto Toeplitz, Princeton University Press, 1957

    Mathematics and logic; retrospect and prospects, by Mark Kac and Stanislaw M. Ulam, New York, Praeger, 1968 (great semipopular book despite the title)

    Continued fractions, by A. Ya. Khinchin, Dover reprint, 1997.

    A whole series of books called Mathematical Pearls, which I can't seem to find in our catalog,

    Proofs from the book, by Martin Aigner, Günter M. Ziegler, Springer, 2004.

    Modern graph theory, by Béla Bollobás, Springer, 1998.

    Indra's pearls: the vision of Felix Klein, by David Mumford, Caroline Series and David Wright, Cambridge University Press, 2002.

    Visual complex analysis, by Tristan Needham, Oxford University Press, 1997.

    Complex analysis: the geometric viewpoint, by Steven G. Krantz, Mathematical Association of America, 2004

    Fourier analysis, by T.W. Körner, Cambridge University Press, 1988.

    In case you hadn't guessed, these are all really, really fun books which are full of nifty but often rather elementary mathematical reasoning. I could have added many more.

    There are zillions of expository papers in the Am. Math. Monthly published over the past century which should also yield a cheap thrill or two, as close as your nearest math library, or even closer for some of you http://www.jstor.org/journals/00029890.html
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