Revised 2016-09-21 website TOC website index blog
Who is this website for?
What is abstract math?
Reading this website
Other sources for math
Abstractmath.org is designed for people who are beginning the study of some part of abstract math. This includes:
Abstract math is my name for what is often called “higher math” or “pure math”.
This website is a multiple-entry site with many cross-links. This overview will give you a start on finding out what is on it.
These head pages explain the ideas of that part in more detail:
The languages of math
Abmath also has articles on certain mathematical topics:
Background and Attitude: This article describes some of the thinking behind this website.
Diagnostic examples: These examples illustrate some of the many kinds of difficulty people meet with when studying and doing abstract math. Each example gives links to the relevant sections of the website or elsewhere.
Gyre&Gimble: A blog that discusses new ideas I have about abstract math and language, some specifically related to abstractmath.org.
Discrete Mathematics Class Notes: An introduction to abstract math for computing science students based on some of the ideas of abstractmath.org.
Mathematica notebooks and CDF files: These are the sources for most of the diagrams, including interactive diagrams, in abmath and in the Gyre&Gimble posts.
All the abstractmath.org articles and all the other documents mentioned in this section are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.
This website is aimed at people with widely varying knowledge of parts of math. When some sort of math object or method is mentioned, it is usually linked to a definition or explanation elsewhere in abstractmath.org or in Wikipedia.
I encourage you to click on the link if you are not sure you understand a word or phrase in blue. This is particularly important if the word is an ordinary English word rather than a technical word such as "homomorphism", because mathematicians routinely give ordinary words technical meanings which may be quite different from their ordinary meanings, for example "definition" and "group".
Many of the important ideas about mathematics in this site are summarized in
Slogans in Purple Prose Displayed Like This
In many places in abmath you will find a section or an article with the phrase "images and metaphors" in its title. An article title "Images and metaphors for [topic]" will tell you about how to think intuitively about [topic]. Gaining intuition about a topic in math is as important as learning how to understand and come up with proofs.
Intuition is both vitally necessary and dangerous, since it can mislead you. The article baldly titled Images and Metaphors explains this aspect of doing math in general, and it is worth looking at to get an overview of what is going on when you read (for example) Functions: Images Metaphors and Representations (big article) or Images and Metaphors for Rational Numbers (little bitty section).
Most of the abmath articles are illustrated by diagrams created in Mathematica. The programming for these illustrations are in Mathematica notebooks, all of which have a file extension ".nb". The illustrations are all .gif, .jpeg or .png files. All these files are in the directory Mathematica Notebooks, many of them in subdirectories. In addition there are interactive documents with extension ".cdf".
I provide links to other treatments of a specific topic at the point where they are discussed. These general links are particularly useful for learning about various aspects of math:
Mathematical Association of America
American Mathematical Society.
Math on the Web.
MathOverflow A question and answer site for professional mathematicians
MathStackExchange A question and answer site for people studying math at any level.
Division by zero
Plus Magazine Blog
Roots of unity
Tanya Kovanova's Math Blog
The unapologetic mathematician
The books listed below are suitable for people beginning abstract math. Except for the Handbook, they emphasize different aspects of abstract math from what this website emphasizes.
Ash, Robert, A Primer of Abstract Mathematics.
Gowers, Timothy, Mathematics: a very short introduction.
Hale, Margie, Essentials of Mathematics: Introduction to Theory, Proof and the Professional Culture.
Solow, Daniel, How to Read and Do Proofs : An Introduction to Mathematical Thought Processes.
Wells, Charles, The Handbook of Mathematical Discourse. Infinity Publishing Company, 2003.
My blog Gyre&Gimble contains many articles on the difficulties students have with beginning abstract math. You can find them by selecting the category "student difficulties". (Finding the button for selecting categories may require widening the window.)
These articles are all available for free. I have avoided referring to articles behind paywalls in abstractmath.org.
Aubrey, Mathieu, Metaphors in mathematics.
Bagchi, Atish and Charles Wells, Varieties of Mathematical Prose (1997).
Bagchi, Atish and Charles Wells, Communicating Logical Reasoning PRIMUS (1998).
Edwards, Barbara and Michael B. Ward, Surprises from mathematics education research: student (mis)use of mathematical definitions.
Epp, Susanna, A unified framework for proof and disproof.
Epp, Susanna, Discrete mathematics for computer science.
Epp, Susanna, Proof issues with existential quantification.
Epp, Susanna, Variables in mathematics education.
Maurer, Stephen, Advice for undergraduate on special aspects of writing mathematics.
Quora, Are there any mathematics studies higher than calculus? If so, which ones?.
Quora: How can "abstract thinking" be best defined or exemplified?
Strogatz, Steven The elements of math.
Tao, Terry, There is more to mathematics than rigour and proofs.
Wells, Charles, Communicating mathematics: useful ideas from computer science. American Mathematical Monthly 102, 1995.
Note: There are many other articles and blog posts about math at the abstract level that need to be added to this section.
Courses that math majors must take typically include some of these:
All of them may involve abstract definitions and require doing proofs.
I am grateful to Case Western Reserve University for providing software and library privileges.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.