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Understanding abstract maths?

  1. Dec 11, 2007 #1
    How to go about it? I had abstract algebra in mind.

    Is the main thing to do as many solid examples as possible?

    So the only way to understand the abstract it is to think concrete then generalise?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2007 #2


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    what kind of abstract algebra? does that mean Group Theory and Representation theory?
  4. Dec 11, 2007 #3
    As Von Neumann once said, you don't understand it, you just get used to it :).

    http://www.physicallyincorrect.com/" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  5. Dec 12, 2007 #4
    That's a very nice quote, possibly my favourite in mathematics as it is not only pleasant but useful.

    So how do you get used to abstract maths? By constructing as many concrete examples as possible?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  6. Dec 12, 2007 #5
    I had abstract maths in general on my mind but I am mostly interested in abstract algebra mainly rings and groups at the moment.
  7. Dec 12, 2007 #6


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    The first thing to do is to learn the definitions exactly. In mathematics, to a larger extent than other studies, definitions are "working" definitions- you use the precise words of defintions in proofs or problems.
  8. Dec 12, 2007 #7
    In pure maths I have always known that there are two levels. One is the definition, the second is doing the maths. For the mathematically challenged, they get stuck on the first level especially when it gets more abstract.

    What are the steps after the definitions are known well?
  9. Dec 12, 2007 #8


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    You said it. Do some math.
  10. Dec 15, 2007 #9
    I defer somewhat, since the best way to understand what is abstract is to adopt a frame of mind suited to it instead of trying to bind it to grounded examples.

    Pure mathematics flows my friend in the eternal closure of definition, proposition and proof.
  11. Dec 15, 2007 #10

    Gib Z

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    The easiest way to understand difficult and abstract mathematics is to become Terry Tao or someone of a similar standing. If that is not possible, practice makes perfect.
  12. Dec 15, 2007 #11
    I thought Terry is on the concrete of abstract maths if that makes sense. i.e His speciality is in analysis and combinatorics which may be more concrete then some of the other branches in algebra or topology.
  13. Dec 15, 2007 #12

    Gib Z

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    I meant it more generally, ie Have natural abilities like him. I'm sure he wouldn't have too much trouble grasping most mathematics given some time, even if he hasn't studied it before.
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