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# Induction

When proving that a statement P(n) holds for all positive integers , two steps are necessary:

1. First prove that the statement is true when n=1.
2. Second prove that the truth of the statement for n=k+1, , follows from the truth of the statement for n=k. (Alternatively, prove that the truth of the statement for n=k+1 follows from the truth of the statement for .)

Example 1: Prove that .

1. Set n=1. Then 1=1(1+1)/2, so the statement is true for n=1.
2. Assume that the statement is true for n=k (this is called the induction hypothesis). So we assume that . Prove that the statement is true for n=k+1. So we want to prove that . We can do this as follows:

Therefore by mathematical induction, the formula has been proved.

Example 2: Prove that the number of subsets of an n-element set is . For convenience, assume that the set is .

1. Set n=1. Then the number of subsets of the set is , so the statement is true for n=1.
2. Assume that the statement is true for n=k. So we assume that the number of subsets of the set is . Prove that the statement is true for n=k+1. So we want to prove that the number of subsets of the set is . We can do this as follows: Every subset of is one of two types: (1) Those that do not contain the element k+1, and (2) those that do contain the element k+1. The subsets of type (1) are all subsets of , so by the induction hypothesis there are of them. The subsets of type (2) are all subsets of the form , where S is a subset of . By the induction hypothesis there are such subsets S, so there are subsets of type (2). So altogether, the number of subsets of is .
Therefore by mathematical induction, the statement has been proved.

Look at pages 114-121 in the book How to Solve It to see another explanation of mathematical induction and other examples.

Next: Finite Differences Up: Tools Previous: Another Summation Formula

Carl Lee
Wed Apr 21 08:17:28 EDT 1999