Tuesday, November 17, 2015

[AM_20151117] An “Unorthodox” Technique for Trigonometric Proof


     When proving trigonometrical identities, one usually starts from the “more difficult” side and try to work towards the other side.  The above identity looks like a tough nut to crack.  Both sides look equally complicated.  Where do we even begin?
     Here is one way to “cheat”.  Starting from, say, the LHS, we multiply the RHS expression and also multiply by its reciprocal i.e. dividing by the same amount.  It is like using a magic wand to create something out of nothing (无中生有 in Chinese), but doing so does not change the value of the LHS expression.  Now we do not touch the part that is equal to the RHS (highlighted in yellow below), but we try to find a way to cancel away the other stuff, as shown here.


     In the third step, I had replaced  cos2A  with  1 – sin2A  and  sin2B  with  1 – cos2B.  This leads to the required cancellation and we are left with the yellow patch, which was never touched since the first step and it is the RHS.  This completes the proof.
     Just as in martial arts where deadly opponents require deadly strokes to counter them, evil questions require “unorthodox” techniques.  Even though most people would not have thought of it, all the steps presented above are actually legitimate.  This is because at every step, the equality is preserved.  All the “=” are really equal, and it’s legit (either work hard or you might as well quit), although my “can’t touch this” tactic seems a bit clairvoyant.
H04. Look for pattern(s)
H05. Work backwards
H08. Make suppositions
H09. Restate the problem in another way
H10. Simplify the problem
H11. Solve part of the problem
H13* Use Equation / write a Mathematical Sentence

Suitable Levels
GCE ‘O’ Level Additional Mathematics
* other syllabuses that involve proof of trigonometric identities
* anyone who loves mathematical challenges

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