# How do Mathematicians Prove Things?

## Establishing ‘proof’ in mathematics leaves no room for error or doubt. Here are some common ways mathematicians meet this high burden

The word ‘proof’ has different implications in different contexts.

In the field of jurisprudence, for example, the phrase ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ is a common phrase used for the burden of proof. This suggests there is room for some doubt in a conviction, as long as it is not considered ‘reasonable’. Statisticians will often reject a hypothesis on the basis of a *very low likelihood* of the observed data sample occurring if the hypothesis were true. Again, there remains room for doubt in the conclusion, albeit very small.

In the field of Pure Mathematics, however, the burden of proof is absolute. There can be no room for doubt whatsoever. Given a statement, the mathematician must be able to describe a logical path that leads to a conclusion that is 100% certain. 99.99999% is no good, because that remaining 0.00001% means that the statement is not completely proven. The logical path that the mathematician describes must depend only on definitions, things that are already known and proved true, or on a very small set of very basic axioms that are accepted to be self-evident by the mathematical community without…