Some interesting things about this proof:
- It was discovered by Jacob Regenstein, a high school student.
- It does not involve any algebraic manipulation.
- It shows a dramatic example of how integration increases the degree of a polynomial by 1: we are starting with 2-D squares, and we end up with part of a 3-D cube.
- It is based on pedagogical tools that are ubiquitous in my teaching and in our department's program: manipulatives and technology.
Others object to pedagogical tools because they are "crutches" which supposedly prevent students from standing on their own theoretical feet. Certainly tools, whether manipulative or electronic, are not magical, and they can be incorporated into bad teaching in any number of ways. I have written a lot about the uses and abuses of tools -- see for example For a Tool-Rich Pedagogy, and follow some of the links therein.
Used well, pedagogical tools can be a powerful part of math education. Jacob's proof confirms some of the things I've said about them. To quote myself:
- They can make some challenging ideas accessible to more students, across a range of learning styles, while at the same time offering an opportunity for strong students to make connections they may otherwise miss.
- In particular, they can help bridge the visual and the symbolic, a connection that is fundamental to all mathematics and science.