Leaving up the Scaffolding

One of the biggest critiques I had about mathematical proofs is that they are so darn hard to understand.  I want the author to walk me through how they arrived at the correct answer.  Perhaps the proof would teach me something meaningful about theorem or I would arrive at some better understanding.  But there are a great deal of very unenlightening proofs out there.  The proofs I’m talking about usually beautiful structure and clever mathematics which ends in a flourish or a bang when the theorem is proved.  But I have no idea how they came to that conclusion.

scaffolding_copyYou too may find this to be true about math. (or perhaps this is why you hated geometry in high school?) I used to think bitter thoughts about some author’s proofs. Then my real analysis professor said something fascinating.  I think he may have been quoting someone else (any one out there know who he was quoting?).  A masterpiece of architecture would never be opened to the public with it’s scaffolding still up.  You are to see the final product and wonder at it’s beauty as apposed to analyzing how it was built.  For the same reason mathematicians remove the scaffolding from their proofs once they are complete.  They do the final finish work and publish incomprehensible and beautiful proofs.

So the next time you read a mathematical argument and find it incompressible- I challenge you to look for beauty in the proof.  If you can see a glimmer of charm in that proof, then the author has achieved his goal of a beautiful, elegant proof.


About Samantha from SocialMath

Applied Mathematician and writer of socialmathematics.net.
This entry was posted in Proof Series. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Leaving up the Scaffolding

  1. Ashiff says:


    That’s a beautiful image you have there. i wish to use it for my startup company logo. Do I need a copyright or can you guide me on how I can use this image


  2. Ashiff says:


    Thanks a ton for your info… Lemme try to get in touch with George Saylor….


  3. umar says:

    i am umar working as a hse officer. It is very beautiful imagen & powerfull scaffolding.

  4. Mark Horsman says:

    Was it Gauss?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s