Mathematical investigations involve a search for pattern and also structure. At the start of one exploration, we might collect related examples of functions, numbers, shapes, or various other mathematical objects. As our examples grow, we shot to fit this individual pieces of information into a larger, meaningful whole. We note usual properties of our examples and also wonder if they apply to all possible examples. If further testing and consideration lead united state to strengthen our id that our examples reflect a an ext general truth, then us state a conjecture. The Latin root of \"conjecture\" analyze to \"throw together\"—we room throwing together plenty of observations into one idea. Conjectures room unproven claims. Once someone proves a conjecture, the is called a theorem.

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You deserve to introduce the ideas and tasks discussed below as the require for them arises throughout student investigations. If a student supplies a specific technique, highlight that strategy for the class. When a conjecture is posed, questioning the course what they have to do to recognize it and also begin to build an overview that all have the right to use. Regular opportunities for exercise with the different skills (organizing data, creating conjectures, etc.) will lead to higher student sophistication end time.


Generating Examples

In stimulate to obtain a much better view that the \"big\" photo of a problem, we shot to produce examples in a methodical fashion. We often have to pick examples from an limitless domain. These instances should it is in representative, in methods that us deem significant, of every one of the elements of the domain. For example, a trouble involving genuine numbers could involve positive, negative, whole, rational, and also irrational examples. Numbers that are less than one or of great magnitude might additionally be important. In enhancement to this vast sampling, we likewise want to generate instances in a patterned method so the relationships in between variables stand the end (see arranging Data below).

For some problems, instances are straightforward to produce. At various other times, the is not clear if the objects defined even exist or, if they perform exist, how to build them. Because that example, a college student interested in the same of the variety of factors for each count number might have challenge finding numbers through an odd variety of factors. Her find for instances will more than likely lead she to wonder why many numbers have an even number of factors and perhaps overview her come the conditions that productivity an odd variety of factors. This intertwining that discovery and also understanding is typical throughout mathematical work—proofs frequently co-evolve v the explorations themselves.

It is necessary to identify when examples are actually different from one another. If we are unable come state what features really matter for a details problem (e.g., bespeak or shape), then we will not have the ability to figure out as soon as we have enough examples, whether any others stay to be found, or what the sample room that us are looking is. For example, college student may discover it daunting to generate a diagram the matches the following conditions or to identify whether their examples are even distinct from each other:

Draw a map showing towns and roads such that:Each pair of roadways has specifically one city in common.Each pair of communities has specifically one roadway in common.Every town is on specifically three roads.Every road contains exactly three towns.

As neighbors compare their maps, ask lock to think about in what means the maps differ and in what ways they match. What qualities count as soon as they consider two maps to be the same? just like the rectangle trouble below, we often resolve the topology of a mathematical object an ext than to its specific measurements. One object’s topology is dependence on exactly how its parts are associated to every other.

Being Systematic

We might find plenty of solutions come a problem yet still miss amazing ones if we are not systematic in our search. In bespeak to it is in systematic, we have to produce a course or routes that will certainly take us through all of the possibilities that can arise. Remaining on the path may require an algorithm that guides us with the choices that we confront along the way. The algorithm itself may not be evident until we have tried to create an bespeak list and also omitted or over-counted some examples. Only, after first experimenting, may we start to understand the inner logic of a problem.

For practice, student can think about the complying with question:

A course is investigate subdivisions of a rectangle right into n smaller rectangles. They are working top top the details case of dissecting a rectangle into 4 rectangles. What layouts are feasible for these subdivisions?

A finish search for also this little case of 4 rectangles requires cautious reasoning. We can consider all possibilities an ext efficiently by picking a solitary corner as our beginning point. Recognizing the symmetry of the situation (a rotation or reflection makes the chosen corner equivalent come the various other three) simplifies ours work. There room two methods to put a rectangle in this corner: along whole side or not (figure 1). Again symmetry involves our aid—it walk not issue whether the entire side that us cover is oriented horizontally or vertically.

Of course, if we room going to appeal to symmetry, we have actually to define what we average by a distinctive answer. It is clear that there will be one infinite variety of solutions if the dimension of the subdivisions is taken right into consideration. So, it makes sense come ask how countless categories of this subdivisions there are as soon as we disregard the size of segments and the in its entirety orientation the the figure and just look in ~ the topological relationship between the sub-rectangles (how they border top top one another).


Figure 1. The first rectangle is put in the top left corner

Once we have actually the two beginning arrangements, we have to add three more rectangles. Because that the rectangle on the left, us are simply left v a smaller sized version of our initial problem—dissecting a rectangle (the continuing to be space) into three rectangles. Over there are just two different ways to perform such a dissection (test this claim yourself!). We can rotate this three-rectangle arrangements come generate brand-new candidates for subdivisions using four rectangles (figure 2). One duplicate equipment arises (the crossed-out photo is a equivalent to the one in the upper best corner), so over there are five variations thus far.


Figure 2. Perfect a type A rectangle

We can complete the kind B rectangle in two added unique means (figure 3).


Figure 3. Perfect a form B rectangle

Another valuable an approach for generating instances is to develop them up inductively from those the a smaller case. We can create the seven subdivisions found over by bisecting one sub-rectangle in the three-rectangle subdivisions (figure 4).


Figure 4. Three rectangular subdivisions are turned right into four

This inductive strategy works nicely when finding all polyominoes made utilizing n squares native the collection of polyominoes made through n – 1 squares. The n-square polyominoes are uncovered by including one added square come each obtainable edge of those made through n – 1 squares. However, this inductive strategy does not job-related dependably for the rectangle subdivision problem. Subdividing one rectangle the a four-rectangle layout cannot create the five-rectangle subdivision pictured listed below (figure 5). This problem demonstrates that we need to thoughtfully select the methods that we usage to generate examples if we desire to identify all situations of interest.

See experimentation Conjectures, below, because that a further discussion of different varieties of examples.

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Figure 5. A unique subdivision

Organizing Data

The examples that we produce in our investigations carry out us through data. We shot to organize that data in a means that will highlight relationships amongst our problem’s variables. Return there are no guaranteed methods for discovering all patterns, there space some useful basic methods. Number data have the right to be arranged in tables that facilitate our find for acquainted patterns. In a problem with 2 variables, one dependent on the other, the details should be noted according to constantly enhancing values of the dependency variable. For example, a college student wondered about the variety of regions formed by the diagonals of a consistent n-gon. She systematically provided the number of sides the the polygons and the number of regions developed (figure 6). This essentially one-dimensional setup facilitates the discovery of any type of recursive or explicit attributes that said the two variables.