Maths - Abstract Algebra and Discrete Mathematics


One of the most important approaches is abstraction. In mathematics we may look at specific structures and then 'abstract' away the details to get to more general results.

For example, if we discover a structure, we try to discover the laws which govern it (usually in the form of equations - identities or axioms). We can then consider these laws on their own and work out the most general structures which satisfy them.


This section contains maths topics which involve abstract concepts and discrete (non continuous) mathematics.



Foundational Mathematics

Certain theories (set theory, type theory, category theory, logic/proof theory, etc.) appear to have the potential to provide an underpinning for the rest of mathematics.

Set Theory

A set can be thought of as a collection of elements where there are no duplicates and order is not significant.

set ∈ element So in set theory we can ask the question: 'is a given element a member of the set ?'
nested sets When fomalising set theory we can consider everything to be a set, so the elements are also sets. So its sets all the way down, until we get to an empty set (although a set can't contain two empty sets). Or perhaps it never ends (see 'open set').

Type theory

A type can also be thought of as a collection of elements but the elements are defined only for a given type and don't exist outside it. So, for example, the same element can't be a element of two different types.

Elements of a type can optionally be types themselves but, as with sets, a type must not contain itself. That is, it must be a strict hierarchy (no loops). See type universes.

Category Theory

In category theory we are mostly concerned with the external structure, that is, the properties of functions between objects (arrows). For instance: do diagrams of arrows commute (often upto isomorphism).

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Correspondence about this page

Book Shop - Further reading.

Where I can, I have put links to Amazon for books that are relevant to the subject, click on the appropriate country flag to get more details of the book or to buy it from them.

flag flag flag flag flag flag The Princeton Companion to Mathematics - This is a big book that attempts to give a wide overview of the whole of mathematics, inevitably there are many things missing, but it gives a good insight into the history, concepts, branches, theorems and wider perspective of mathematics. It is well written and, if you are interested in maths, this is the type of book where you can open a page at random and find something interesting to read. To some extent it can be used as a reference book, although it doesn't have tables of formula for trig functions and so on, but where it is most useful is when you want to read about various topics to find out which topics are interesting and relevant to you.


Terminology and Notation

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