Formal methods are mathematical methods (essentially specification, design, and proof languages) whose purpose is to aid in the construction of systems and software. They are often tool-supported and can be used to describe a system as well as to analyze its behavior and to verify its key properties.
The rationale behind formal methods is that time spent on specification and design will be recovered in later stages: Testing and maintenance time are reduced because the code is of a higher quality. They also reduce the cost of maintenance later on. Formal methods reveal errors or some forms of incompleteness that might become expensive to correct once the code is written.
2. See Martin Fowler's UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language, 3rd Ed., Addison-Wesley, 1996.
Over the past 25 years formal methods have reached a sufficient level of maturity so they are routinely applied in hardware construction and in software construction, particularly for safety critical software.
Let's discuss some details of the formal specification and design methods.
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