You are on page 1of 4

APPROACHES TO PROVING INEQUALILTIES The content of advanced calculus and real analysis highly depends on inequalities.

Rather than spending a lot of our time proving elementary results directly from axioms of real numbers, we move on to methods of proving inequalities which we need in advanced calculus. 1. Get comfortable using the Triangle Inequality. The triangle inequality is one of the more frequently used inequalities in advanced calculus. It involves the absolute value function dened with |x| := x x if x 0, if x < 0.

Here is its statement and proof of the Triangle Inequality. Proposition 1. If a, b R then |a + b| |a| + |b|.

Proof. We have to distinguish several cases. Case 1) In this case we assume a, b 0. An immediate consequence is that a + b 0. By the denition of the absolute value we see that |a + b| = a + b, |a| = a, |b| = b and the inequality |a + b| |a| + |b| trivially holds. Case 2) This is a similar case: we assume a, b < 0 and obtain a+b < 0, |a + b| = a b, |a| = a, |b| = b. The inequality |a + b| |a| + |b| again trivially holds. Case 3) This time we assume that the numbers a and b are of dierent sign. Without loss of generality we may assume a < 0 and b > 0. The assumptions do not determine the sign of a + b and so we have to distinguish two sub-cases: Sub-case 1) Here we assume a+b 0. Since a < 0 we in particular have a a, i.e a + b a + b. We also see that |a + b| = a + b, |a| = a and |b| = b. Therefore, a+b a+b implies |a+b| |a|+|b|.

Sub-case 2) Here we assume a+b 0. Since b > 0 we have b b, i.e a b a + b. We also see that |a + b| = a b, |a| = a and |b| = b. Therefore, a b a + b implies |a + b| |a| + |b|.
1

Examples of utilizing the triangle inequality are given in the following proposition.

APPROACHES TO PROVING INEQUALILTIES

Proposition 2. If x, y, z R then (1) |x z| |x y| + |y z|; (2) |x| |y| |x y|. Proof. To prove (1) we set a = x y and b = y z and use the triangle inequality. To prove (2) we rst note that, since |x| |y| = |y| |x| and |xy| = |y x|, the inequality (2) does not change if we switch the roles of x and y. Thus, without loss of generality we may assume that |x| |y| and consequently |x| |y| = |x| |y|. It remains to show that |x||y| |xy|, i.e. |x| |xy|+|y|. The last inequality follows from the triangle inequality once we set a = x y and b = y. There is an important comment to be made. If r and s are two real numbers, then we may think of |r s| as the distance between r and s. Interpreted this way the inequality (1) of Proposition 2 states that the distance between numbers x and z is not bigger than the sum of distances from x to y and from y to z. This resembles the triangle inequality in geometry! This is the reason why the inequality of Proposition 1 is called triangle inequality. 2. Take advantage of the principle of mathematical induction. It is possible to introduce the set of natural numbers N as a subset of R; it is characterized by: In particular, to prove statements about N we can use the principle of mathematical induction. Here is an example; the following is referred to as the Bernoullis inequality. Proposition 3. Let x > 1 and let n N. Then (1 + x)n 1 + nx. Proof. The base for the induction is the case of n = 1. For this value of n the inequality reads 1 + x 1 + x and is trivially true. Now assume that the inequality holds for some k 1, i.e. that (1) We need to show that (1+x)k+1 1+(k+1)x. We start by multiplying both sides of the inequality (1) by (1 + x); note that 1 + x > 0, due to x > 1, so that the direction of the inequality does not change after multiplication. We get (1 + x)k+1 (1 + x)(1 + kx). (1 + x)k 1 + kx. 1 N, k N = k + 1 N.

APPROACHES TO PROVING INEQUALILTIES

Since (1 + x)(1 + kx) = 1 + kx + x + kx2 = 1 + (k + 1)x + kx2 , and since kx2 0 we have Using transitivity we see that (1 + x)k+1 1 + (k + 1)x. 3. Utilize transitivity. Usefulness of transitivity when proving inequalities can not be overemphasized. The inequality in the following example can be proven by induction for n 3. If you do this as a little exercise (recommended!), you will nd out that the proof is not all that simple. On the other hand, to show that the inequality holds for n large enough we only need a clever usage of transitivity. Example 1. Show that if n N is large enough then n3 > (n + 1)2 . Comments leading to the solution. Let us rst clarify the meaning of the phrase if n N is large enough. (1 + x)(1 + kx) 1 + (k + 1)x.

The phrase should be interpreted to mean from some number on, or for all numbers n N where N is some natural number. In other words, our problem really states: (N )(n N ) n3 > (n + 1)2 . Our inequality is cubic and so there are no methods of solving which guarantee a solution. Moreover, the presence of +1 on the right hand side makes any cancelation virtually impossible. Note though that 2n n + 1 for all n N, so that 4n2 > (n + 1)2 . IF we could show n3 > 4n2 then the transitivity would give us n3 > (n + 1)2 , as desired. Thus, we should focus on n3 > 4n2 , i.e. n > 4. Actual solution. We will show that if n > 4 then n3 > (n + 1)2 . For n > 4 we have n3 > 4n2 and 2n n + 1. Taking squares of terms in the last inequality gives 4n2 (n + 1)2 . The transitivity now shows that n3 > (n + 1)2 . n Symbolically, the phrase for n large enough can be written as 0. We shall use this notational convention. 0 then 2n2 + n 1 < . 3+1 n 3

Example 2. Show that if n

APPROACHES TO PROVING INEQUALILTIES

Comments leading to the solution. The inequality we need to show is equivalent to 3 2n2 + n < n3 + 1. Using transitivity we see that it suces to show 6n2 + 3n < n3 i.e. 6n + 3 < n2 . This is a quadratic inequality and in principle it can be solved. However, it is much easier to interpolate a multiple of n between 6n + 3 and n2 and take advantage of transitivity. For example, if n 3 then 6n + 3 7n and our problem reduces to 7n < n2 whose solution is 7 < n. Solution. We will show that if n > 7 then also that n > 7 implies n2 > 7n. Since
2 2n2 +n n3 +1 1 < 3 . First note

7n = 6n + n > 6n + 3 = 3(2n + 1), we see that n > 3(2n + 1). In particular, we have n3 > 3(2n2 + n) and consequently n3 + 1 > 3(2n2 + n). The last inequality can be re-written 2 +n as 2n3 +1 < 1 . n 3 Homework. (1) (a) Use mathematical induction to show that 2n n2 for all n 4; (b) Show that if n 0 then n2 < 1; 2n + 1 0 then n2 1 < ; n+1 2 3 0 the following hold:

(c) Show that if n

(2) Show that for n (a) (b)


n n3 1 n4 8n3 n1

1; 2 7;

(3) Assuming the standard properties of sin and cos functions hold show that for n 0 we have sin(2n ) cos(2n ) 1 . n2 n3 25