Developing new picture proofs that the sums of the first odd integers are squares

Christopher J Sangwin, Fenner Stanley Tanswell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What is it that makes us judge two proofs of the same theorem to be the same or different? This is not an idle question: one central aspect of judging mathematics is the novelty of the mathematics presented. This is important everywhere from the peer-review system, to assigning international prestige, to funding agencies’ grant decisions. It even matters to some extent in examinations, to avoid accusations of collusion. Surprisingly, philosophers of mathematics have not paid the question of novelty much attention. In this article, we will consider the appealing conjecture that the main ideas that make up the proof, the essence of a proof, can indeed be identified and that very different styles of proofs can share common main ideas. Further, that a particular theorem can be proved using quite different, independent main ideas. As a means of exploring whether this is plausible, we will present a number of novel proofs of the following theorem.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalThe Mathematical Gazette
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 10 Nov 2021


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