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Courses Pass math course with proofs by memorization?

  1. Jun 13, 2010 #1
    I'm studying applied physics and I am currently in my second semester of the second year. I now have a probability and mathematical statistics course which is causing me a problem.
    Although I had lots of math prior to this course, none of it actually required writing proofs. Yet the spring semester came and we were required to write lots of them. The problem is- no one did teach us how to do that and the professor is really bad at explaining even the basic concepts of the course, or he really does not care much (I am not the only one having difficulty- most of the students do, and I mean most).
    And so we had an exam- many of us including myself failed. Those who passed the exam memorized from lecture notes (they told me) and those who memorized or learned from other sources failed. Thus, the professor forces us to memorize proofs from the lecture notes and he even told me that, although indirectly. And this is where I would like to ask a question:
    How could one possibly write proofs by memorization? What should I do? I feel like I've gained almost nothing from this course and just wasted my time.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 13, 2010 #2


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    That's a bit unusual, seeing/doing proofs for the first time in a statistics course...

    Well, why wouldn't it be possible to memorize proofs? Of course, if you understand a proof a can do it from scratch, it's better. But if you don't (perhaps because of lack of time), you can just try to memorize line by line all the words, and then write exactly that at your exam.
  4. Jun 13, 2010 #3
    Depends on what you mean by "Hes asking us to write proofs" THat could mean he just wants you regurgitate a proof that hes already given you. It could also mean he asks you to prove something using theorem that you should know.

    It certainly is pointless to just have to memorize the proofs. Just cuz you memorize a math proof doesnt mean you know what the theorem is stating, it doesnt mean that you can actually use that theorem for something useful. My guess is that you are being asked to prove something, using theorems youve learned.

    Ive never been a fan of memorization, and I dunno how it is in most uni's math programs, but at mine, Ive yet to have a math class where we were allowed a sheet of notes, so we have to memorize theorems (even if we dont have to memorize the proof to that theorem).I hate that. I hate having to waste time memorize every freaking theorem and I always miss one or two (or properties of of a few) and it always costs me HUGE.

    My gripe aside, you SHOULD spend time writing down the theorems, studying them and making sure you understand what they mean. If you arent not used to writing proofs the you should also study how your text (or teacher) proves the theorems. Writing a proof isnt hard, but it IS EASY to mess them up. If youve never written proofs, math notation may be really hard to follow until youve seen enough proofs that the "language" starts becoming your second language.

    THe only way to get good at writing proofs is to practice alot. WHenever you see an exercise in your text that says "Prove that is..." do the exercise. If you are unsure about your reasoning then just come on here ask the guys here if you are on the right path. But practice practice practice.
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