Maths - Types

We can look at types from a mathematical or a computing point of view.

Types in Computing

In computing we think of type as representing some type of data structure, this determines:

See these pages for types as related to programming:

Types in Mathematics

Types were originally added to set theory to try to resolve some paradoxes that arose. types and sets

Type Theorys

Here are some atomic mathematical types with some examples of terms that may inhabit those types:

Type Term  
Boolean True
Natural Numbers 0,1,2...  
Real Numbers 0.582  
Set a  

Type is a collection of terms having some common property.

Terms are values (or variables, or functions like the sum of other terms).

We can think of types as classifying values. If we know the type of somthing we have less information than knowing its value (and also its type). If we know a value without knowing its type, for example 0 (zero) we don't know if it is a natural number, or an integer, or a real number. Hence we don't know what operations might be valid to apply to it.

Types and terms are a similar (but different) concept to sets and elements. In both cases we think about it as a container relationship.

The ':' colon symbol is used to declare the type of a given term:

Type Term  
M x:M typing declaration

If the type is not declared, it can be inferred in some circumstances.

We can have a multiple level hierarchy of types. For instance, the type 'M' in the above table may itself have a type of 'Type' ( M:Type ). However giving all higher order types the type of 'Type' could theoretically lead to circular references and hence paradoxes. Some theories allow these 'Type's to be numbered to enforce a hierarchy of universes and prevent any circular references. (see kinds)

Martin-Löf Type Theorys

These are 'constructive' type theories, that is, we can start with some atomic types as above and define compound types by building them up inductively.

There are a number of type theorys developed by Church, Martin-Löf, etc. Such as:

We can start with some of the simpler ways of creating compound types.

Sum, Product and Exponent

A type theory with Sum, Product and Exponent type is related to a Cartesian Closed Category (CCC).

A term may be represented by some variable such as x,y... or a compound term using the following:

If 'M' and 'N' are valid terms, then the following are also valid terms:

  Type Term  
    M[x] We will use this notation to denote a term 'M' with multiple values depending on the value 'x'.
Sum A \/ B <M,N>

This is a union of the two types. An instance will contain an instance of only one of the types.

We can recover the contained types as follows:

  • π1(M)
  • π2(M)
Product A /\ B (M N) This contains both of the types (like tuples) . An instance will contain an instance of all of the types.
Exponent A->B λ x:M.N

This is a function from M to N.

where x is an instance of 'M' and the function returns an instance of 'N'

See lambda calculus.


Here are some more atomic types, this time denoted in a more category theory way:

Type Term  
0 empty type (initial)
1 unit type (terminal)
2 True

Dependent Types

If 'M' and 'N' are valid type terms, then the following are also valid terms:

  Type Term  
Dependent Product x:A->B Πx:M.N[x]


Dependent Sum <x:A,B[x]> Σx:M.N[x] Strong sum type: expresses the concept of subset.

Dependent Types in Programming

In the language 'Scala' we can define a type that is parameterised by another type (polymorphism) for instance:

This represents a list of any type, represented by 'T', for example a list of Integers or a list of boolean values.

However, Scala does not allow dependent products like say: Modulo[n:Integer] which would represent any modulo number system such as modulo 3 or modulo 27.

Dependent Types as Fibre Bundles.

The situation where a type depends on the value of another type is modeled by fibre bundles.

We discuss fibre bundles on the page here.

So a model of a vector category depends on its dimension:

dependent type

Type Theory and Logic

There are various approaches to this:


There is a correspondence between constructive (intuitionistic) logic and propositional logic.

Constructive Logic Type Theory  
proposition type of its proofs A proposition is true iff we have a proof of that proposition
proof an object of that type  

This does not work for more complicated type theorys and logics such as higher order logic.

Logic over a Type Theory

We treat logic as a meta-mathematics, that is a layer above the mathematics that allows us to apply axioms and rules to prove things about the mathematics.


Any collection of elements of the same type may form an object of the next higher type.

there existsz'for allx[x∈z <-> Φ(x)]

Concepts related to Type


type theory



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see also:
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 Computation and Reasoning - This book is about type theory. Although it is very technical it is aimed at computer scientists, so it has more discussion than a book aimed at pure mathematicians. It is especially useful for the coverage of dependant types.


Terminology and Notation

Specific to this page here:


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