Proofs Your T.A. Never Showed You
by Pat Curtin, U of Ottawa Electrical
For too long professors have been leading students astray by attempting to
prove theorems to their classes. Through analytical and graphical
techniques, obscure technical manipulations and multiple buzzwords, they
go through the motions of deriving expressions. The resultant lack of
legible and audible information inevitably drives students crazy. With
experience, students become so sensitive to these pieces of academic hell
that as soon as "sensors detect incoming proofs", writing materials are
dropped and people start sawing logs. Here's your chance to fight
Proof by Magic:
The most popular university level proof, this method involves large doses
of vigorous hand waving and incoherent muttering. Numbers seem to pop in
and out of nowhere for no apparent reason. It is usually accompanied by
puffs of smoke and has been known to make use of mirrors. Hits is the
methods of choice for Calculus profs of Germanic heritage.
Proof by Assumption:
The simplest of all proofs, wherein an answer is stated and assumed to be
tanh(ln(arccos (x!))) dy dx = 1
Unfortunately, some profs, find this to be unacceptable. For these
fascists a variation known as Proof of Infinite Assumption may come in
handy. It is the same as above, except that you assume the answer to be
"a" where "a" lies somewhere between negative infinity and infinity,
you're just no quite sure of its exact location.
Proof by Blunt Instrument:
A real crowd pleaser, this risky but useful method calls your professor's
future health into question. In less important situations a watered down
version known as Proof by Violent Desk Pounding may be employed.
If you have some knowledge of the question's subject matter, but
absolutely no idea of how to solve it, spill everything you know onto the
paper, including totally irrelevant bits of information such as last
night's hockey score, favorite recipes, etc. Good for part mark.
Proof by an Undetermined Sum of Money:
Affix a blank signed cheque to the exam. This is the easiest way to earn
your prof's respect.
Proof by Mindboggling Notation:
Used to best effect with at least five alphabets and special symbols.
Proof by Skillful Manipulation of the English Language
(also known as the "See if he'll fall for this one" Proof):
"it can be shown that...." or "clearly..." or "this question is left as an
exercise to the reader"
Proof by Association:
"I saw Ashwin do that once".
Proof by Good Eyesight:
Otherwise known as cheating.
Proof by Corrupt Math:
Simplify the problem by making use of some trick, albeit mathematically
illegal one. e.g., x/0=0, 1=2.
Proof by Textbook:
This beast is rarely found on exams but can be useful for labs, especially
those in which your experimental error exceeds 30000%.
Proof by Logic:
You answer looked right, it fells right, so dammit, its got to be right.
You just lack the details to show it. Quote Spock extensively.
Proof by 80 Proof:
Consuming beverages containing 40% alcohol isn't the most effective
procedure, but LCBO sanctioned products can be loads of fun anyways. Even
if the exam smokes you, who'll remember.
Proof by B&E:
If you don't want to bother studying, liberate a copy of the exam from
your prof's office. The fact that you'll have to break and enter does
technically make this a criminal offense, but what he's been doing to you
during the course is also illegal.
Proof by Brownnosing:
Sucking up has been used successfully for ages, so there's no reason why
anyone lacking pride and self-esteem shouldn't try it. Visit the prof's
office frequently, bearing gist such as apples, assorted canned goods, and
BNR pocket protectors. Compliment his tasteful brown, yellow and green
polyester sports jacket. Ask dumb questions so he'll feel smart.
Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt:
What the jury will have to be shown in order to convict you of 3 to 16.
Proof by Minimum Time Expenditure:
Admit that the question is way over your head and write down some
criticism like "I don't know" or "you're asking me?" A work of warning,
though. Don't do this too often or you'll be rolling your marks home.
Plead for your professor's mercy, explaining that you couldn't study
because your parents are suffering from bizarre diseases, forcing you to
put in an 80 hour week down in the mines so you could keep your sister in
hairdressing school. If this works, beg for money.
(reprinted from the OralOtis, February 1989).
Page written by Matthew Darwin
3,468 hits since August 30, 1997