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Unformatted text preview: PW1 A Guide to ProofWriting A Guide to ProofWriting
by Ron Morash, University of Michigan–Dearborn
At the end of Section 1.7, the text states, “We have not given a procedure that can be used for proving theorems
in mathematics. It is a deep theorem of mathematical logic that there is no such procedure.” This is true, but does
not mean that proofwriting is purely an art, so that only those with exceptional talent and insight can possibly
write proofs. Most proofs that students are asked to write in elementary courses fall into one of several categories,
each calling for a systematic approach that can be demonstrated, imitated, and eventually mastered. We present
some of these categories and techniques for working within them, organized as follows. This material supplements
that found in the text and is intended to help get you started creating your own proofs. Also, studying the material
in this Guide will help you understand better the proofs you read.
1. Deducing conclusions having the form “For every x, if P (x), then Q(x).”
1.1. Direct proof
1.1.1. Propositions having no hypothesis
1.1.2. Propositions having one or more hypotheses
1.1.3. Disproving false propositions having conclusions of the form “∀x[P (x) → Q(x)]”
1.1.4. The tactic of division into cases
1.1.5. Proving equality of sets
1.2. Indirect proof
1.2.1. Proof by contraposition
1.2.2. Proof by contradiction
1.2.3. Deriving conclusions of the form “q or r”
2. Remarks on additional methods of proof
2.1. Deducing conclusions having the form “For every x, there exists y such that P (x, y ).”
2.2. Proof by mathematical induction
1. Deducing conclusions having the form “For every x, if P (x), then Q(x).”
Many deﬁning properties in mathematics have the form ∀x[P (x) → Q(x)], representing the idea “All P ’s are
Q’s.” (Cf. Examples 23, 26, and 27 in Section 1.3 of the text.) Some deﬁnitions involving this form are:
(i) A set A is a subset of a set B : In symbols, A ⊆ B if and only if ∀x[(x ∈ A) → (x ∈ B )]. This is read in
words, “A is a subset of B if and only if, for every x, if x ∈ A, then x ∈ B .” Less formally, A is a subset of B if
and only if every element of A is also an element of B . (Cf. Deﬁnition 4 in Section 2.1 of the text.)
(ii) A function f is onetoone : f is onetoone if and only if, for every x1 and x2 in the domain of f , if
f (x1 ) = f (x2 ), then x1 = x2 . (Cf. Deﬁnition 5 in Section 2.3 of the text.)
(iii) A relation R on a set A is symmetric : R is symmetric if and only if, for every x, y ∈ A, if (x, y ) ∈ R, then
(y, x) ∈ R. (Cf. Deﬁnition 4 in Section 8.1 of the text.)
Many mathematical propositions that students are asked to prove have as their conclusion a statement involving
a deﬁnition of the form just described. Some examples are:
(a) Prove that for all sets A and B , A ⊆ A ∪ B .
(b) Prove that for all sets X , Y , and Z , if X ⊆ Y , then X ∩ Z ⊆ Y ∩ Z .
(c) Prove that for every function f whose domain and codomain are subsets of the set of real numbers, if f is
strictly increasing (cf. Deﬁnition 6 in Section 2.3), then f is onetoone.
(d) Prove that for all relations R1 and R2 on a set A, if R1 and R2 are symmetric, then the relation R1 ∩ R2
is symmetric.
Note that the desired conclusion in each of the propositions (a)–(d) is a statement involving one of the deﬁnitions
(i)–(iii). Furthermore, propositions (b), (c), and (d) each have a hypothesis , a statement we are allowed to assume
true and whose assumed truth, presumably, will play a role in deriving the conclusion. We begin our study of
proofwriting methods by considering the very broad category known as direct proof . PW2 A Guide to ProofWriting 1.1. Direct proof
An argument in which we prove a proposition in its originallystated form is called a direct proof . Some forms
of direct proof are discussed in Sections 1.5 and 1.6 of the text. In the sections of this Guide that follow, we present
various techniques for creating direct proofs. Attempting to write a direct proof of a proposition is usually our ﬁrst
line of attack. Direct proof contrasts with indirect proof , in which we prove a proposition by proving a diﬀerent,
but logically equivalent, form of the original proposition. We will introduce indirect proofs later, but will focus, in
Examples 1–11, on various approaches to direct proofs.
1.1.1. Propositions having no hypothesis
Direct proofs of propositions like (a), having no hypothesis, tend to be simpler in their structure than the
proofs that are required for propositions (b)–(d). Examples 1 and 2 demonstrate proofs for this simpler case.
Example 1. Prove Proposition (a): For all sets A and B , A ⊆ A ∪ B .
Solution. The proof proceeds as follows: Let A and B be arbitrary sets. To prove A ⊆ A ∪ B , let x be
an arbitrarily chosen element of A. [Note: We are assuming that x ∈ A.] We must prove that x ∈ A ∪ B . By
the deﬁnition of “union,” this means we must prove that either x ∈ A or x ∈ B . Since we know x ∈ A, by our
assumption, the desired conclusion x ∈ A or x ∈ B follows immediately.
Let’s dissect the proof in Example 1 and analyze what we did. Our starting point “. . . assume x ∈ A . . . ”
is an application of one of the most widelyused approaches to proofwriting, known as the choose method . The
basic approach to deriving a conclusion of the form ∀x[P (x) → Q(x)], is to begin by choosing an arbitrary object
(giving it a speciﬁc name such as “x”) for which it is assumed that P (x) is true. Our goal is to deduce that Q(x)
must consequently also be true. In Example 1, P (x) is the assumption “x ∈ A” and Q(x) is the desired conclusion
“x ∈ A ∪ B .” We make the following additional observations:
• The object x is a ﬁxed, but arbitrarily chosen, element of the universe of discourse of P (x) and Q(x). We
do not assign any speciﬁc value to x; rather we give the name “x” to a generic object [that is assumed to satisfy
the propositional function P (x)] and use that name to keep track of the object as we proceed through the steps of
the proof. The power of this approach is that any conclusion we draw about “this x” applies to every object a for
which the assumption P (a) is true. This is valid by the rule of universal generalization; see Table 2 of Section 1.5.
• In the ﬁrst part of a proof of a conclusion of the form ∀x[P (x) → Q(x)], called the “settingup” of the proof,
we choose x, assume P (x) is true, and then write out what it would mean for Q(x) to be true (in our example, “. . .
to prove x ∈ A ∪ B , we must prove that either x ∈ A or x ∈ B ”). Learning the process of setting up a proof in this
category provides a fairly standardized, predictable, and almost mechanical beginning of a prospective direct proof.
Furthermore, once we have written out these details, the remainder of the proof—the path from the assumption
P (x) to the desired conclusion Q(x)—is sometimes obvious.
• In the proof in Example 1, the path from what we assumed (i.e., x ∈ A) to the conclusion (i.e., x ∈ A ∪ B )
was obvious. In our proof, we stated that the conclusion “follows immediately.” But was there something more
than just “common sense” to justify that conclusion? Yes! The rule of inference p → p ∨ q (“Law of Addition”) is
the underlying logical tool that justiﬁes this step. This rule and other rules of inference are stated in the text, in
Table 1 of Section 1.5. In the sample proofs that follow, we will make explicit reference to the rules of inference
used (in an increasingly less obvious way as the proofs become more complex), even though it is common practice
to apply these rules only implicitly, that is, without speciﬁc mention. To become proﬁcient at writing proofs, you
need to know how to use these rules of inference and when to use them.
Example 2. Prove that for all sets X and Y , X ∩ (Y ∪ X ) ⊆ Y .
Discussion. Let X and Y be arbitrary sets. To prove X ∩ (Y ∪ X ) ⊆ Y , let a be an arbitrarily chosen element
of X ∩ (Y ∪ X ). [We could also say “Assume a ∈ X ∩ (Y ∪ X ).”] We must prove a ∈ Y . [This concludes the
settingup of the proof. Now we must ﬁgure out how to get from the assumption to the conclusion. To do that, we
begin by analyzing what our assumption means.]
Since a ∈ X ∩ (Y ∪ X ), we know that a ∈ X and a ∈ Y ∪ X . The latter, in turn, tells us that either a ∈ Y
or a ∈ X , that is, either a ∈ Y or a ∈ X . [Note that the preceding sentence makes the ﬁrst mention of the desired
/ A Guide to ProofWriting PW3 conclusion a ∈ Y .] Now, can we infer the conclusion a ∈ Y from the known “either a ∈ Y or a ∈ X ”? This would
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require a rule of inference “(p ∨ q ) → p” (the converse of the Law of Addition). This is not a valid inference since
(p ∨ q ) → p is not a tautology, so this approach does not work. Note, however, that not only do we know “either
a ∈ Y or a ∈ X ” from our assumption, but we also know that a ∈ X . Thus, what we know from our assumption
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has the form (p ∨ q ) ∧ ¬q . [Note: p is “a ∈ Y ” and q is “a ∈ X ,” so ¬q is “a ∈ X .”] Does Table 1 in Section 1.5
give us a conclusion that follows from this premise? It does! The Law of Disjunctive Syllogism, [(p ∨ q ) ∧ ¬q ] → p,
enables us to draw the conclusion p, that is, a ∈ Y , the desired conclusion. [Note: As stated in Table 1, the roles
of p and q are reversed from what we have here, but that is of no consequence.]
Before moving on, we rewrite the preceding proof, leaving out explanatory comments. What remains provides
a representative view of what a typical proof looks like:
“Let X and Y be arbitrary sets. To prove X ∩ (Y ∪ X ) ⊆ Y , assume a ∈ X ∩ (Y ∪ X ). We must prove a ∈ Y .
By our assumption, we know a ∈ X and a ∈ Y ∪ X ; therefore a ∈ X and either a ∈ Y or a ∈ X . Thus we know
that either a ∈ Y or a ∈ X ; but we also know that a ∈ X , so a ∈ X is false. Hence we conclude a ∈ Y , as desired.”
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At this point, you may wish to try some relevant exercises in the text, such as Exercises 16(a,c) and 18(a,b,c)
in Section 2.2. You should ﬁnd the principles from Examples 1 and 2 helpful in attempting these exercises.
1.1.2. Propositions having one or more hypotheses
As we work through the steps of a prospective proof, the tools at our disposal in moving toward a desired
conclusion are
• the assumption(s) we are entitled to make at the outset in setting up the proof,
• assumed axioms and previouslyproved theorems (if any), and
• rules of inference from logic, such as p → (p ∨ q ), used in Example 1, and [(p ∨ q ) ∧¬q ] → p, used in Example 2.
(See Table 1 in Section 1.5 for additional rules of this type.)
In addition to these, most propositions we are asked to prove contain
• one or more hypotheses , statements whose truth is to be assumed in the proof and which, we expect, will be
used as part of the argument leading to the conclusion.
Example 3 provides our ﬁrst instance of a proposition in which a hypothesis is to be assumed in deriving a
conclusion of the form ∀x[P (x) → Q(x)].
Example 3. Prove Proposition (b): For all sets X , Y , and Z , if X ⊆ Y , then X ∩ Z ⊆ Y ∩ Z .
Proof. Let X , Y , and Z be sets such that X ⊆ Y . To prove X ∩ Z ⊆ Y ∩ Z , assume b ∈ X ∩ Z . To prove
b ∈ Y ∩ Z , we must prove b ∈ Y and b ∈ Z . [This marks the end of “setting up the proof.” Now we must return
to our assumption and the hypothesis, and begin to analyze what they mean and what information we can draw
from them.] By our assumption, we know that b ∈ X and b ∈ Z , so, in particular, b ∈ Z , one of our two desired
conclusions. Furthermore, since b ∈ X (part of our assumption) and since X ⊆ Y [here we are, for the ﬁrst time,
bringing in the hypothesis], we may conclude that b ∈ Y , our other desired conclusion.
The following feature of the proof in Example 3 is very important. In setting up the argument at the outset,
we applied the choose method to the desired conclusion, not the hypothesis. Thus our initial statement was “. . .
assume b ∈ X ∩ Z .” A common mistake by beginning students is to begin with “. . . assume b ∈ X . . . ,” erroneously
focusing at the start of the proof on the hypothesis rather than on the desired conclusion. Note that we did not
employ the hypothesis until the very end of the proof!
In the last sentence of the proof in Example 3, we concluded b ∈ Y from knowing b ∈ X and X ⊆ Y . Let us
consider why this conclusion is justiﬁed. The truth of X ⊆ Y means that the proposition ∀x[(x ∈ X ) → (x ∈ Y )] is
true. Thus, in particular, the proposition (b ∈ X ) → (b ∈ Y ) is true, where b is the speciﬁc object we are working
with in the proof. Since b ∈ X is true and the “if. . . then” statement (b ∈ X ) → (b ∈ Y ) is true, the truth of b ∈ Y
follows from the rule of inference modus ponens (cf. Table 1 in Section 1.5 of the text). Note, once again, that a
rule of inference has played an important, though implicit, role in a proof! PW4 A Guide to ProofWriting The principles discussed thus far apply to every proof of a proposition whose conclusion has the logical form
∀x[P (x) → Q(x)], and not just to proofs that one set is a subset of another. Examples 4 and 5 illustrate this.
Example 4. Prove that every nonconstant linear function f (x) = M x + B , M = 0, is onetoone.
Proof. Let M be a nonzero real number. Let x1 and x2 be real numbers and assume that f (x1 ) = f (x2 ). We
must prove that x1 = x2 . Since f (x1 ) = M x1 + B and f (x2 ) = M x2 + B , we have M x1 + B = M x2 + B . By a rule
of elementary algebra, if M x1 + B = M x2 + B , then M x1 = M x2 . Since M x1 = M x2 and M = 0, by hypothesis,
we conclude by another rule of elementary algebra that x1 = x2 , as desired.
Example 5. Prove Proposition (d): For all relations R1 and R2 on a set A, if R1 and R2 are symmetric, then
the relation R1 ∩ R2 is symmetric.
Proof. Let A be an arbitrary set and let R1 and R2 be symmetric relations on A. To prove that the relation
R1 ∩ R2 is symmetric, let x and y be arbitrary elements of A and assume that (x, y ) ∈ R1 ∩ R2 . We must prove
(y, x) ∈ R1 ∩ R2 , that is, (y, x) ∈ R1 and (y, x) ∈ R2 . [End of setup!] Now since (x, y ) ∈ R1 ∩ R2 (by assumption),
we know that (x, y ) ∈ R1 and (x, y ) ∈ R2 . Since (x, y ) ∈ R1 and R1 is symmetric (by hypothesis), (y, x) ∈ R1 . This
is one of our desired conclusions. Since (x, y ) ∈ R2 and R2 is symmetric (by hypothesis), (y, x) ∈ R2 , the second of
our two desired conclusions. With this, the proposition is proved.
At this point, you may want to practice applying the principles from Examples 3–5 in the following exercises:
• Prove that for all sets A and B , if A ∩ B = A, then A ⊆ B .
• Prove that for all sets A, B , and C , if A ⊆ B and B ⊆ C , then A ⊆ C . (This is Exercise 15 in Section 2.1 of
the text.)
• Prove that the function g (x) = x3 is onetoone.
1.1.3. Disproving false propositions having conclusions of the form ∀x[P (x) → Q(x)]
Sometimes we are faced with a proposition that we must either “prove or disprove.” We are not told in advance
whether the proposition is true. If it is false, then it will of course be impossible to write a correct proof of the
proposition. Time spent trying to do so may provide insight, but cannot ultimately lead to a valid proof. Example 6
illustrates how we should approach this type of problem.
Example 6. Prove or disprove the converse of Proposition (b): For all sets X , Y , and Z , if X ∩ Z ⊆ Y ∩ Z ,
then X ⊆ Y . (Cf. Example 3.)
Discussion. Suppose we try ﬁrst to approach this proposition in the manner of previous examples. Our setting
up of a “proof” would read as follows: “Let X , Y , and Z be arbitrary sets such that X ∩ Z ⊆ Y ∩ Z . To prove
X ⊆ Y , let w ∈ X ; we must prove w ∈ Y .” At this point, we must return to the hypothesis X ∩ Z ⊆ Y ∩ Z and
ask whether, in combination with the assumption w ∈ X , it leads to the conclusion w ∈ Y . If we could get w to
lie in X ∩ Z , then we could invoke the hypothesis to conclude w ∈ Y ∩ Z , which would imply w ∈ Y , the desired
conclusion. However, we know from our assumption only that w ∈ X ; in order to conclude w ∈ X ∩ Z , we would
need to know that w ∈ Z , which we do not!
With this, our attempt to write a direct proof breaks down, leaving us with two possibilities. Either there is
another route to a proof, or perhaps, the proposition we are trying to prove is false. If we do not know whether a
general proposition is true or false, and our initial attempts at a proof fail, we should do some experimenting to
see whether we can ﬁnd a counterexample , i.e., a speciﬁc example that contradicts the truth of the proposition.
Before we can do that, we must formulate precisely the negation of the proposition. Logically the negation of
a proposition “for every x, if P (x), then Q(x)” is “there exists x such that P (x) but not Q(x).” In symbols,
¬∀x[P (x) → Q(x)] is equivalent to ∃x[P (x) ∧ ¬Q(x)]. In this example, the negation is “there exist sets X , Y ,
and Z such that X ∩ Z ⊆ Y ∩ Z , but X is not a subset of Y .” Can we ﬁnd speciﬁc sets X , Y , and Z satisfying
this statement? Consider the sets X = {4, 7, 8, 11}, Y = {2, 7, 8, 9, 11}, and Z = {1, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12}. Note that
X ∩ Z = {7, 8, 11} and Y ∩ Z = {7, 8, 9, 11}, so X ∩ Z ⊆ Y ∩ Z . However X is clearly not a subset of Y . Hence we
have a counterexample; the proposition in question is false!
Note that a single counterexample to a general proposition is suﬃcient to prove that proposition false. This
is a far cry from what is required to prove a general proposition true, when the domain (universe of discourse) is A Guide to ProofWriting PW5 inﬁnite. Since we can never exhaust all the possible examples, no number of speciﬁc cases that aﬃrm a proposition
are suﬃcient to establish its truth in general. We must write a general proof in order to do that—the process of
writing such proofs is the major topic you are now studying, and one to which we will return shortly.
In the last sentence of the Discussion of Example 6, we stated that “X is clearly not a subset of Y .” How do
we justify this statement formally? Recall that “X ⊆ Y ” is deﬁned by “∀w[(w ∈ X ) → (w ∈ Y )].” Hence the
proposition “∃w[(w ∈ X ) ∧ (w ∈ Y )]” corresponds to “X is not a subset of Y .” For the sets X = {4, 7, 8, 11} and
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Y = {2, 7, 8, 9, 11}, we note that, choosing w = 4, we have 4 ∈ X , but 4 ∈ Y . This particular example is all that
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is needed to conclude that X is not a subset of Y . (Note incidentally that the choice of w used to prove that X is
not a subset of Y , w = 4, has the property that w ∈ Z . This is not surprising since, in our initial attempt to prove
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the false proposition in Example 6, the obstacle we could not overcome was that our arbitrarily chosen w did not
need to lie in Z .)
The following exercises are germane to the issues raised by Example 6 and the paragraphs following it.
• Prove or disprove: For all sets X , Y , and Z , X ∪ (Y ∩ Z ) ⊆ (X ∪ Y ) ∩ Z .
• Prove or disprove: For all sets X , Y , and Z , if X ⊆ Z , then X ∪ (Y ∩ Z ) ⊆ (X ∪ Y ) ∩ Z .
1.1.4. The tactic of division into cases
As propositions we are asked to prove become more complex, we must expand our arsenal of tools that are
eﬀective for proceeding toward the desired conclusion of a proposition, once we have ﬁnished setting up the argument.
The applications of the choose method that occur in Examples 7 and 8, which follow, demonstrate a new such tool,
known as division into cases , which is useful in some proofs.
Example 7. Prove that for all sets A and B , (A ∩ B ) ∪ (A ∩ B ) ⊆ A.
Proof. Let A and B be arbitrary sets. To prove (A ∩ B ) ∪ (A ∩ B ) ⊆ A, assume x ∈ (A ∩ B ) ∪ (A ∩ B ). We
must prove x ∈ A. By our assumption, we know that either x ∈ A ∩ B or x ∈ A ∩ B , that is, either x ∈ A and
x ∈ B , or else x ∈ A and x ∈ B . [Note: We don’t know which of these two is the case, but we do know that at least
one of them must be true.] Hence, at this point, we divide the argument into two exhaustive cases:
Case I Suppose that x ∈ A and x ∈ B . Then, in particular, x ∈ A [by the rule of inference (p ∧ q ) → p], so
the desired conclusion obtains in this case.
Case II Suppose that x ∈ A and x ∈ B . Then, again, x ∈ A, so the desired conclusion is again veriﬁed. Under either of the only two possible cases, we have x ∈ A, the desired conclusion.
Example 8. Prove that for all sets A and B , A ⊆ (A ∩ B ) ∪ (A ∩ B ).
Proof. Let A and B be arbitrary sets. To prove A ⊆ (A ∩ B ) ∪ (A ∩ B ), assume x ∈ A. We must prove
x ∈ (A ∩ B ) ∪ (A ∩ B ). To do this, we must prove that either x ∈ A ∩ B or x ∈ A ∩ B , that is, either x ∈ A and
x ∈ B , or else x ∈ A and x ∈ B . [Recall that our assumption is that x ∈ A. This assumption involves only the
set A. The problem we must solve is how to bring the relationship between x and the set B into the discussion.]
We note that, necessarily, either x ∈ B or x ∈ B , by the tautology p ∨ ¬p. Having noted this, we consider two cases:
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Case I Suppose that x ∈ B . Then, since x ∈ A [by our assumption], we have x ∈ A and x ∈ B , one of the
two alternatives in our desired conclusion.
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Case II Suppose that x ∈ B . Equivalently, x ∈ B . Then, since x ∈ A, we have x ∈ A and x ∈ B , the other of
the two alternatives in our desired conclusion.
Compare the proofs in Examples 7 and 8, both involving division into cases. The second proof illustrates
somewhat more creativity than does the ﬁrst. It requires a slightly more active role on our part, involving the
tautology p ∨ ¬p. The truth of this tautology is “common sense.” Once the idea of bringing this division into cases
into the argument is suggested, virtually anyone would agree that it is correct and, furthermore, is an eﬀective step
at this stage. The diﬃcult part for you, as a beginning student just learning to write proofs, is thinking of this idea
on your own. PW6 A Guide to ProofWriting Many complex proofs require that some creative idea be brought in from outside the basic structure (i.e., the
setting up) of the argument. This is the aspect of proofwriting that is not mechanical. It is learned from experience
and by an active interest in the “why” in mathematics. It is fostered by developing the habit of having ﬁrmly in
mind all the statements, pertaining to the problem at hand, that we know to be true, and by being willing to try
to apply these statements until we ﬁnd one that works.
Here are some exercises that involve the choose method and division into cases:
• Prove that for all sets X , Y , and Z , if X ⊆ Z and Y ⊆ Z , then X ∪ Y ⊆ Z .
• Prove that for all sets A, B , and C , if A ⊆ B , then A ∪ C ⊆ B ∪ C .
• Prove that for all sets X , Y , and Z , if X ∩ Z ⊆ Y ∩ Z and X ∩ Z ⊆ Y ∩ Z , then X ⊆ Y .
1.1.5. Proving equality of sets
Three approaches to proving equality of sets are discussed in Examples 14–18 in Section 2.2 of the text. Of
these, the ﬁrst, known as mutual inclusion (introduced in Example 10), is the most generally applicable. In addition,
it expands naturally on the earlier material in this Guide, so we give that approach additional emphasis here.
A formal version of the deﬁnition of equality of sets given in the text (cf. Deﬁnition 3 in Section 2.1) is
A=B if and only if ∀x[(x ∈ A) ↔ (x ∈ B )]. The latter proposition is equivalent to
∀x{[(x ∈ A) → (x ∈ B )] ∧ [(x ∈ B ) → (x ∈ A)]},
which, in turn, is equivalent to
{∀x[(x ∈ A) → (x ∈ B )]} ∧ {∀x[(x ∈ B ) → (x ∈ A)]},
which is the deﬁnition of
A⊆B and B ⊆ A. We may prove that two sets are equal by proving that each is a subset of the other. We illustrate this approach
in Examples 9 and 10.
Example 9. Prove that for all sets A and B , (A ∩ B ) ∪ (A ∩ B ) = A.
Proof. We may prove the desired equality by proving mutual inclusion, i.e., that each of the two sets is a
subset of the other. The inclusion (A ∩ B ) ∪ (A ∩ B ) ⊆ A, however, is precisely what we proved already in Example 7.
The other inclusion A ⊆ (A ∩ B ) ∪ (A ∩ B ) was proved in Example 8. Having written these two proofs, we have
established the desired equality.
In Example 10, we encounter a conclusion of equality that is preceded by a hypothesis.
Example 10. Prove that for all sets A and B , if A ⊆ B , then A ∪ B = B .
Proof. Let A and B be arbitrary sets such that A ⊆ B . We may prove A ∪ B = B by proving B ⊆ A ∪ B and
A ∪ B ⊆ B.
1. B ⊆ A ∪ B is essentially Proposition (a), proved earlier in Example 1. [Note that the hypothesis of the
theorem is not required to establish this inclusion. Like Example 6 in Section 1.6 of the text, the proof in this
direction is trivial .]
2. To prove A ∪ B ⊆ B , given the hypothesis A ⊆ B , we proceed by the choose method. Assume x ∈ A ∪ B .
We must prove thatx ∈ B . By our assumption, we know that either x ∈ A or x ∈ B . Since we do not know which
of these two statements is true, we divide the argument into cases:
Case I Suppose that x ∈ A. Then, since A ⊆ B , by hypothesis, we have x ∈ B , as desired. [Recall the middle
paragraph of the discussion between Examples 3 and 4, on the role of modus ponens.]
Case II Suppose that x ∈ B . Since this is the desired conclusion, the result is trivially true in this case. PW7 A Guide to ProofWriting
We conclude x ∈ B , as desired. In some circumstances, it is possible to prove set equality using a single chain of valid equations, thus avoiding
the sometimes cumbersome mutualinclusion approach. One such circumstance is in proving any of the set identities
in Table 1 in Section 2.2 of the text. Each of these results is a settheory version of a corresponding equivalence of
propositions in logic, covered in Section 1.2. Each can be proved using the approach of Example 12 in Section 2.2
of the text.
Another approach to proving an equality of sets is to use other equalities proved previously. Suppose the
following identities of set theory have already been proved:
For all sets A, B, and C, A ∩ (B ∪ C ) = (A ∩ B ) ∪ (A ∩ C ).
For every set B, B ∪ B = U [1] (U represents the universal set.) [2] For every set C, C ∩ U = C. [3] On these bases, we can give a proof of the proposition proved in Example 9 that does not use mutual inclusion.
Example 11. Prove that for all sets A and B , (A ∩ B ) ∪ (A ∩ B ) = A.
Proof. Let A and B be arbitrary sets. Then we have
(A ∩ B ) ∪ (A ∩ B ) = A ∩ (B ∪ B )
= A∩U
= A, (by [1])
(by [2])
(by [3]) as desired.
Note that, in applying the result [1], we used the special case C = B of the identity [1] (which is the property
of distributivity of intersection over union—see Table 1 in Section 2.2 of the text). The technique of using a special
case of a known result is called specialization . Whenever you ﬁnd yourself saying “in particular,” in making an
inference from a known general fact in the course of an argument, you are using the specialization tactic. Like
division into cases, specialization is a sometimesuseful technique for proceeding beyond the initial setting up of a
proof toward the desired conclusion. Formally, it is justiﬁed by the rule of universal instantiation, shown in Table 2
of Section 1.5.
1.2. Indirect proof
Sometimes it is convenient, or even necessary, to prove a form of a proposition that is diﬀerent from the original,
but logically equivalent to it. Whenever we write a proof in such a form, we are writing an indirect proof . Three
common forms of indirect proof are based on three logical equivalences of pairs of propositions:
• (¬q ) → (¬p) is equivalent to p → q [4] • (¬p) → (q ∧ ¬q ) is equivalent to p [5] • (p ∧ ¬q ) → r is equivalent to p → (q ∨ r). [6] The equivalence [4] is the basis for the form of an indirect proof known as proof by contraposition . The
equivalence [5] justiﬁes the form of an indirect proof called proof by contradiction . The equivalence [6] underlies a
standard approach to deriving a conclusion involving alternatives, i.e., having the form “either q or r.”
1.2.1. Proof by contraposition
Sometimes it is diﬃcult to see how to prove a proposition of the form ∀x[P (x) → Q(x)] by starting with the
assumption that P (x) is true. (Recall Section 1.1.2 of this Guide.) What can you do if you cannot see how to
deduce the conclusion Q(x) from the assumption P (x) and any additional given hypotheses (if there are any)?
Sometimes, in such cases, assuming the negation ¬Q(x) of the conclusion provides a better match with known facts
or the other given hypotheses, and the two together lead readily to the negation ¬P (x) of the original assumption.
An argument in this form is an instance of proof by contraposition. See Example 3 in Section 1.6 of the text for an
example of such a proof. Our Example 12 provides another illustration of the method. PW8 A Guide to ProofWriting Example 12. Prove Proposition (c): For every function f whose domain and codomain are subsets of the set
of real numbers, if f is strictly increasing, then f is onetoone.
Discussion. Let f be any function that is strictly increasing. To show that f is onetoone using the original
form of the deﬁnition, we would let x1 and x2 be real numbers in the domain of f and assume f (x1 ) = f (x2 ). We
would then have to prove x1 = x2 . We have completed the setting up of a direct proof, but have no way of using the
hypothesis that f is strictly increasing [i.e., “. . . if x1 < x2 , then f (x1 ) < f (x2 )”]. The assumption f (x1 ) = f (x2 )
simply does not “match up” with the “if part” of the hypothesis in a way that permits us to proceed anywhere
from that hypothesis.
However, suppose we decide instead to derive the contrapositive of the deﬁnition of onetoone. Under this
approach, we will begin by assuming that x1 = x2 . Our goal will then be to prove that f (x1 ) = f (x2 ). We proceed
from here as follows. Since x1 = x2 (by assumption), then it must be that either x1 < x2 or x2 < x1 . We consider
two cases:
Case I If x1 < x2 , then since f is strictly increasing, we may conclude f (x1 ) < f (x2 ), so, in particular,
f (x1 ) = f (x2 ), as desired.
Case II If x2 < x1 , then since f is strictly increasing, we may conclude f (x2 ) < f (x1 ), so f (x1 ) = f (x2 ),
again as desired.
Another situation in which a proof by contraposition is sometimes called for is one in which the conclusion
of the proposition has a much simpler logical form than does the hypothesis. We illustrate this in the following
example.
Example 13. Suppose that a is a real number satisfying the property ∀M >0 (a < M ). Then a = 0.
Discussion. Note the simple form of the conclusion. Rather than involving a deﬁnition having an “if. . . then”
form, as in most of our earlier examples, it is simply the ﬂat statement that a = 0. If we try to begin a direct
proof by focusing on the desired conclusion, then there is really no place to begin, no basis for making the kind of
assumption that is needed to get the proof “oﬀ the ground.”
So instead we proceed by contraposition. Our approach will be to assume a = 0 and try to deduce the negation
of the hypothesis. This negation may be formulated (cf. Table 2 in Section 1.3 of the text)
∃M >0 (a ≥ M ). [7] We need only produce a positive M whose value does not exceed that of the absolute value of the nonzero a. We
take M = a, noting that this value of M clearly satisﬁes the condition [7].
Here is a third circumstance in which a proof by contraposition is appropriate. Suppose a proposition of the
form “if p and q , then r” is known to be true, and we are asked to prove that p and the negation of r together
imply the negation of q . We may always proceed, using contraposition, by assuming that the negation of q is false,
that is, that q is true. Then since p is true, by hypothesis, we have that p and q are both true, so, by the known
proposition, we may conclude that r is true, contradicting the fact that ¬r is one of the hypotheses. You will have
an opportunity to apply this approach in the third and fourth of the exercises that follow.
• Prove that for all sets A and B , if A ⊆ B , then B ⊆ A.
• Prove that if a linear function f (x) = M x + B is onetoone, then M = 0.
• Suppose it is known that “every sum or diﬀerence of two integers is an integer.” Use this result to prove that
for all real numbers x and y , if x is an integer and x + y is an integer, then y is an integer. Prove also that the sum
of an integer and a noninteger must be a noninteger.
• Prove that for all sets A and B and for every object x, if x ∈ A and x ∈ A ∩ B , then x ∈ B .
/
/
1.2.2. Proof by contradiction
The idea behind the equivalence [5] is that we may prove a conclusion p by showing that the denial of p leads
to a contradiction. Actually, proof by contraposition is a form of proof by contradiction. For if, in a proof that p
implies q , we assume the truth of p (as we are entitled to do) and then use the negation of q to derive ¬p, then A Guide to ProofWriting PW9 we have obtained the contradiction p ∧ ¬p. Another circumstance in which proof by contradiction is the standard
approach is any proof of a theorem in set theory in which the conclusion asserts that some set equals the empty set.
Example 14. Prove that for all sets A and B , if A ⊆ B , then A ∩ B = Ø.
Discussion. A direct approach would be to establish the equality A ∩ B = Ø using mutual inclusion. Indeed
the containment in one direction, Ø ⊆ A ∩ B , is true automatically, based on the principle that the empty set is
a subset of every set (this result is vacuously true—recall Example 5 in Section 1.6 of the text). However, for the
containment in the other direction, A ∩ B ⊆ Ø, the approach “assume x ∈ A ∩ B . . . we must prove x ∈ Ø” is
doomed to failure, since the conclusion “x ∈ Ø” can never be reached.
Since we are unable to write a direct proof, we proceed by contradiction. Let A and B be arbitrary sets such
that A ⊆ B . Assume that A ∩ B = Ø. Then there exists some object that lies in A ∩ B ; let us call it c. Since
c ∈ A ∩ B , we know that c ∈ A and c ∈ B . Since c ∈ A and A ⊆ B , by hypothesis, we have c ∈ B . Thus we have
/
c ∈ B and c ∈ B , so c ∈ B and c ∈ B . This is a contradiction of the form p ∧ ¬p, so our proof is complete .
that A classic example of a proof by contradiction is provided in the text in Example 10 of Section 1.6, which shows
√
2 is irrational. Here are some exercises:
• Prove that for every set A, A ∩ A = Ø.
• Prove that for all sets A and B , if (B ∩ A) ∪ (B ∩ A) = B , then A = Ø.
• Prove that for all sets A and B , (A ∪ B ) ∩ (A ∪ B ) ∩ (A ∪ B ) ∩ (A ∪ B ) = Ø. 1.2.3. Deriving conclusions of the form “q or r”
The equivalence [6] becomes relevant to the writing of proofs when we must derive a conclusion involving
alternatives, q or r. For a proposition of this type, there may be no circumstance under which we can be sure
which of the alternatives is true, only that at least one of them must be true under every circumstance in which
the hypothesis is true. Because of this, we are unable to determine whether to set up a direct proof based on the
conclusion q or on the conclusion r. (Indeed, usually no such proof is possible.) Fortunately there is an indirect
approach, based on the equivalence [6], that enables us to get around this diﬃculty. Rather than attempting to
prove directly that q or r follows from p, we may replace this problem by the problem of showing that r follows
from p and ¬q (or else that q follows from p and ¬r—either approach will do the job).
A classic example of a proof in this category is the following theorem from elementary algebra: “For all real
numbers x and y , if xy = 0, then x = 0 or y = 0.” Clearly we should set up this proof by letting x and y be real
numbers such that xy = 0. But at this point there is no evident way of proceeding toward the conclusion that one
or the other of x and y (we know not which) equals 0. The escape is to make the additional assumption that x = 0,
with the goal of proving that therefore y must equal 0. Since x = 0, its reciprocal 1/x must exist, and we may
write the chain of equations y = 1 · y = [(1/x)(x)](y ) = (1/x)(xy ) = (1/x)(0) = 0, so y = 0, as desired. [Note that
this chain of equations also uses the facts that multiplication of real numbers is associative and that the product of
every real number with 0 equals 0.]
A problem in set theory in which this approach is sometimes useful is proving that one set is a subset of the
union of two other sets. This is demonstrated in Example 15.
Example 15. Prove that for all sets A and B , A ⊆ B ∪ (A ∩ B ).
Proof. Let A and B be arbitrary sets. To prove A ⊆ B ∪ (A ∩ B ), assume that x ∈ A. We must prove that
x ∈ B ∪ (A ∩ B ), that is, either x ∈ B or x ∈ A ∩ B . Since our desired conclusion is now seen to have the form
“either q or r,” we take the approach suggested by the equivalence [6], and assume that x ∈ B . Our goal now
/
becomes to prove that, on the basis of this additional assumption, it must be true that x ∈ A ∩ B , that is, x ∈ A
and x ∈ B . We already know x ∈ A, by our initial assumption in the proof. As for x ∈ B , that follows immediately
from our additional assumption x ∈ B .
/
If a desired conclusion has more than two alternatives, the strategy suggested by [6] is generalized as follows:
Assume the negation of all but one of the alternative conclusions and, on that basis, try to prove that the remaining
one must be true. We illustrate this in Example 16. PW10 A Guide to ProofWriting Example 16. Prove that for all sets A and B , if A × B = B × A, then either A = Ø or B = Ø or A = B .
Sketch of Proof. [Note ﬁrst that the notation A × B refers to the cartesian product of sets A and B , deﬁned
as the set of all ordered pairs (a, b), where a ∈ A and b ∈ B . This deﬁnition is the basis of the content of Chapter 6
of the text, on relations.] Let A and B be any sets such that A × B = B × A. Assume further that A = Ø and
B = Ø. With these two additional assumptions, our goal then becomes to prove that the third alternative A = B
must be true. The remainder of this proof is left as an exercise.
The following exercises provide the opportunity to use the strategy suggested by the equivalence [6].
• Complete the proof in Example 16.
• Prove that if A, B , and C are any sets such that A × B = A × C , then either A = Ø or B = C .
• Prove that if A and B are any sets such that A × B = Ø, then either A = Ø or B = Ø.
• Prove that for all sets X , Y , and Z , (X ∪ Y ) ∩ Z ⊆ X ∪ (Y ∩ Z ).
2. Remarks on additional methods of proof
Not all propositions we may wish to prove have conclusions involving the form ∀x[P (x) → Q(x)]. Nonetheless,
beginning students who are able to write correctly the proofs called for in the exercises in Section 1 of this Guide
are well prepared to deal with the new issues that arise in writing other types of proofs. One reason for this is
that many of the tactics (e.g., division into cases, specialization) and strategies (e.g., the choose method, indirect
proof), highlighted in Section 1, have application beyond proving propositions whose conclusion is of the form
∀x[P (x) → Q(x)]. In this section, we discuss brieﬂy two additional types of propositions.
2.1. Deducing conclusions having the form “For every x, there exists y such that P (x, y ).”
Many deﬁning properties in mathematics have one of the forms ∃x P (x) or ∀x ∃y P (x, y ). Elementary deﬁnitions
of these types include:
(i) Let m and n be integers. We say that m divides n, denoted m  n, if and only if there exists an integer p
such that n = mp. (Cf. Deﬁnition 1 in Section 3.4 of the text.)
(ii) A function f is onto : f is onto if and only if, for every y in the codomain of f , there exists x in the domain
of f such that f (x) = y . (Cf. Deﬁnition 7 in Section 2.3 of the text.)
(iii) A real number x is said to be rational if and only if there exist integers p and q , with q = 0, such that
x = p/q .
Many important mathematical propositions whose proofs should be within the capabilities of students working
through this Guide have as their conclusion a statement involving one of the preceding deﬁnitions. Some examples
are:
(a) Prove that if m, n, and p are integers such that m divides n and m divides p, then m divides n + p.
(b) Prove that if functions f and g , having the real numbers as their domain and codomain, are both onto,
then their composition f ◦ g is also onto.
(c) Prove that if x and y are rational, then xy and x + y are rational.
The new issue involved in proving propositions like (a)–(c) is existence . At a key point of each of these proofs,
we must “produce,” or deﬁne, an appropriate object of the type whose existence is asserted in the desired conclusion.
In doing this, it is important to realize that, for a conclusion of the form ∀x ∃y P (x, y ), the y whose existence is to
be proved usually depends on the given x; we should expect it to be deﬁned in terms of x or else in terms of some
other object that is deﬁned in terms of x. This principle is demonstrated in Examples 17 and 18, which follow.
Example 17. Prove the ﬁrst part of Proposition (c): If x and y are rational, then xy is rational.
Discussion. Assume that real numbers x and y are rational. To prove that their product xy is rational, we
must show that xy = p/q , where p and q are integers with q = 0. Our job in this proof is to produce, literally to A Guide to ProofWriting PW11 build, the integers p and q whose quotient p/q equals xy . As in most proofs, once the argument is set up, we must
next assess what we have available to work with. In the case of a proof of existence, this includes asking whether
what we have to work with provides any “building blocks.” We have at our disposal only the hypotheses that x
and y are rational. This means we can state that there exist integers p1 and q1 , with q1 = 0, such that x = p1 /q1 ;
and there exist integers p2 and q2 , with q2 = 0, such that y = p2 /q2 . We note that, therefore, xy = (p1 /q1 )(p2 /q2 ),
which, by rules of algebra, equals (p1 p2 )/(q1 q2 ). Noting that p1 p2 and q1 q2 are necessarily integers and that q1 q2 = 0
(Why?), we declare that p = p1 p2 and q = q1 q2 are the required integers.
Example 18. Prove Proposition (b): If functions f and g , having the real numbers as their domain and
codomain, are both onto, then their composition f ◦ g is also onto.
Proof. Assume that the functions f and g are onto. To prove that their composition f ◦ g is onto, let z be
an arbitrary real number. We must prove that there exists x ∈ R such that (f ◦ g )(x) = z . Now since f is onto,
we know that, corresponding to the given z , there exists a real number y such that z = f (y ). Next, since g is
onto, then corresponding to this y , there must exist a real number w such that y = g (w). Note therefore that
z = f (y ) = f (g (w)) = (f ◦ g )(w). Hence our choice of the desired real number x becomes evident, namely choose
x = w.
Theorem 1 in Section 3.4 of the text contains several propositions related to Deﬁnition (i), including a proof
of Proposition (a). You should study that proof, noting its similarities to the proofs in Examples 17 and 18, and
then attempt the following exercises.
• Prove parts (ii) and (ii) of Theorem 1 in Section 3.4 of the text.
• Prove that for every integer n, there exists an integer m such that m  n.
• Prove that for every positive integer m, there exists a positive integer n such that m  n.
• Prove the second part of Proposition (c): If x and y are rational, then x + y is rational.
• Prove that if f and g are functions having the real numbers as their domain and codomain, and if f ◦ g is
onto, then f is onto.
2.2. Proof by mathematical induction
We use mathematical induction to prove a proposition whose conclusion has the form ∀n P (n), where n
is a positive integer (or, sometimes, a nonnegative integer). Thus proof by induction is an appropriate approach
when the universe of discourse for a predicate quantiﬁed by “for every” is the set of all positive integers. If you
review earlier sections of this Guide, you will note that this has not usually been the case in most of the examples
and exercises covered, so induction would not have been an appropriate approach at those earlier stages.
Note that the inductive step in every proof by mathematical induction involves a proposition of the form
∀n[P (n) → Q(n)], where Q(n) is P (n + 1). Thus the basic approach to be taken in the second part of a proof
by induction is the same approach that was emphasized throughout Section 1 of this Guide, namely the choose
method. We start by letting n be an arbitrary positive integer for which it is assumed that P (n) is true. We must
prove, on the basis of that assumption and whatever else is available (e.g., hypotheses), that P (n + 1) is also true.
For more on mathematical induction, see Sections 4.1 and 4.2 of the text. ...
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This note was uploaded on 11/15/2010 for the course ENCS COMP 232 taught by Professor Ford during the Fall '10 term at Concordia University Irvine.
 Fall '10
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