Overview and history of mathematics
See the article on the history of mathematics for details.
The word "mathematics" comes from the Greek μάθημα (máthema) which means "science, knowledge, or learning"; μαθηματικός (mathematikós) means "fond of learning".
The major disciplines within mathematics arose out of the need to do calculations in commerce, to measure land and to predict astronomical events. These three needs can be roughly related to the broad subdivision of mathematics into the study of structure, space and change.
The study of structure starts with numbers, first the familiar natural numbers and integers and their arithmetical operations, which are recorded in elementary algebra. The deeper properties of whole numbers are studied in number theory. The investigation of methods to solve equations leads to the field of abstract algebra, which, among other things, studies rings and fieldss, structures that generalize the properties possessed by the familiar numbers. The physically important concept of vectorss, generalized to vector spaces and studied in linear algebra, belongs to the two branches of structure and space.
The study of space originates with geometry, first the Euclidean geometry and trigonometry of familiar three-dimensional space (also applying to both more and less dimensions), later also generalized to non-Euclidean geometries which play a central role in general relativity. Several long standing questions about ruler and compass constructions were finally settled by Galois theory. The modern fields of differential geometry and algebraic geometry generalize geometry in different directions: differential geometry emphasizes the concepts of functions, fiber bundles, derivatives, smoothness and direction, while in algebraic geometry geometrical objects are described as solution sets of polynomial equations. Group theory investigates the concept of symmetry abstractly and provides a link between the studies of space and structure. Topology connects the study of space and the study of change by focusing on the concept of continuity.
Understanding and describing change in measurable quantities is the common theme of the natural sciences, and calculus was developed as a most useful tool for doing just that. The central concept used to describe a changing variable is that of a function. Many problems lead quite naturally to relations between a quantity and its rate of change, and the methods to solve these are studied in the field of differential equations. The numbers used to represent continuous quantities are the real numbers, and the detailed study of their properties and the properties of real-valued functions is known as real analysis. For several reasons, it is convenient to generalise to the complex numbers which are studied in complex analysis. Functional analysis focuses attention on (typically infinite-dimensional) spaces of functions, laying the groundwork for quantum mechanics among many other things. Many phenomena in nature can be described by dynamical systems and chaos theory deals with the fact that many of these systems exhibit unpredictable yet deterministic behavior.
In order to clarify and investigate the foundations of mathematics, the fields of set theory, mathematical logic and model theory were developed.
When computers were first conceived, several essential theoretical concepts were shaped by mathematicians, leading to the fields of computability theory, computational complexity theory, information theory and algorithmic information theory. Many of these questions are now investigated in theoretical computer science.
Discrete mathematics is the common name for those fields of mathematics useful in computer science.
An important field in applied mathematics is statistics, which uses probability theory as a tool and allows the description, analysis and prediction of phenomena and is used in all sciences. Numerical analysis investigates the methods of efficiently solving various mathematical problems numerically on computers and takes rounding errors into account.
Topics in mathematics
An alphabetical and subclassified list of mathematical topics is available. The following list of subfields and topics reflects one organizational view of mathematics.
In general, these topics and ideas present explicit measurements of sizes of numbers or sets, or ways to find such measurements.
- Number -- Natural number -- Pi -- Integers -- Rational numbers -- Real numbers -- Complex numbers -- Hypercomplex numbers -- Quaternions -- Octonions -- Sedenions -- Hyperreal numbers -- Surreal numbers -- Ordinal numbers -- Cardinal numbers -- p-adic numberss -- Integer sequences -- Mathematical constants -- Number names -- Infinity -- Base
These topics give ways to measure change in mathematical functions, and changes between numbers.
- Arithmetic -- Calculus -- Vector calculus -- Analysis -- Differential equations -- Dynamical systems and chaos theory -- List of functions
These branches of mathematics measure size and symmetry of numbers, and various constructs.
- Abstract algebra -- Number theory -- Algebraic geometry -- Group theory -- Monoids -- Analysis -- Topology -- Linear algebra -- Graph theory -- Universal algebra -- Category theory -- Order theory
These topics tend to quantify a more visual approach to mathematics than others.
- Topology -- Geometry -- Trigonometry -- Algebraic geometry -- Differential geometry -- Differential topology -- Algebraic topology -- Linear algebra -- Fractal geometry
Topics in discrete mathematics deal with branches of mathematics with objects that can only take on specific, separated values.
- Combinatorics -- Naive set theory -- Probability -- Theory of computation -- Finite mathematics -- Cryptography -- Graph theory -- Game theory