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Algebra Applications: How to Use Algebra in Real Life Situations

Elementary algebra deals with the manipulation of variables (commonly represented by Roman letters) as if they were numbers and is therefore essential in all applications of mathematics. Abstract algebra is the name given, mostly in education, to the study of algebraic structures such as groups, rings, and fields. Linear algebra, which deals with linear equations and linear mappings, is used for modern presentations of geometry, and has many practical applications (in weather forecasting, for example). There are many areas of mathematics that belong to algebra, some having "algebra" in their name, such as commutative algebra, and some not, such as Galois theory.


The word algebra is not only used for naming an area of mathematics and some subareas; it is also used for naming some sorts of algebraic structures, such as an algebra over a field, commonly called an algebra. Sometimes, the same phrase is used for a subarea and its main algebraic structures; for example, Boolean algebra and a Boolean algebra. A mathematician specialized in algebra is called an algebraist.

Historically, and in current teaching, the study of algebra starts with the solving of equations, such as the quadratic equation above. Then more general questions, such as "does an equation have a solution?", "how many solutions does an equation have?", "what can be said about the nature of the solutions?" are considered. These questions led extending algebra to non-numerical objects, such as permutations, vectors, matrices, and polynomials. The structural properties of these non-numerical objects were then formalized into algebraic structures such as groups, rings, and fields.

Before the 16th century, mathematics was divided into only two subfields, arithmetic and geometry. Even though some methods, which had been developed much earlier, may be considered nowadays as algebra, the emergence of algebra and, soon thereafter, of infinitesimal calculus as subfields of mathematics only dates from the 16th or 17th century. From the second half of the 19th century on, many new fields of mathematics appeared, most of which made use of both arithmetic and geometry, and almost all of which used algebra.

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Today, algebra has grown considerably and includes many branches of mathematics, as can be seen in the Mathematics Subject Classification[8]where none of the first level areas (two digit entries) are called algebra. Today algebra includes section 08-General algebraic systems, 12-Field theory and polynomials, 13-Commutative algebra, 15-Linear and multilinear algebra; matrix theory, 16-Associative rings and algebras, 17-Nonassociative rings and algebras, 18-Category theory; homological algebra, 19-K-theory and 20-Group theory. Algebra is also used extensively in 11-Number theory and 14-Algebraic geometry.

The use of the word "algebra" for denoting a part of mathematics dates probably from the 16th century.[citation needed] The word is derived from the Arabic word al-jabr that appears in the title of the treatise Al-Kitab al-muhtasar fi hisab al-gabr wa-l-muqabala (The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing), written circa 820 by Al-Kwarizmi.

Therefore, algebra referred originally to the manipulation of equations, and, by extension, to the theory of equations. This is still what historians of mathematics generally mean by algebra.[citation needed]

In mathematics, the meaning of algebra has evolved after the introduction by François Viète of symbols (variables) for denoting unknown or incompletely specified numbers, and the resulting use of the mathematical notation for equations and formulas. So, algebra became essentially the study of the action of operations on expressions involving variables. This includes but is not limited to the theory of equations.

At the beginning of the 20th century, algebra evolved further by considering operations that act not only on numbers but also on elements of so-called mathematical structures such as groups, fields and vector spaces. This new algebra was called modern algebra by van der Waerden in his eponymous treatise, whose name has been changed to Algebra in later editions.

The roots of algebra can be traced to the ancient Babylonians,[9] who developed an advanced arithmetical system with which they were able to do calculations in an algorithmic fashion. The Babylonians developed formulas to calculate solutions for problems typically solved today by using linear equations, quadratic equations, and indeterminate linear equations. By contrast, most Egyptians of this era, as well as Greek and Chinese mathematics in the 1st millennium BC, usually solved such equations by geometric methods, such as those described in the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, Euclid's Elements, and The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art. The geometric work of the Greeks, typified in the Elements, provided the framework for generalizing formulae beyond the solution of particular problems into more general systems of stating and solving equations, although this would not be realized until mathematics developed in medieval Islam.[10]

By the time of Plato, Greek mathematics had undergone a drastic change. The Greeks created a geometric algebra where terms were represented by sides of geometric objects, usually lines, that had letters associated with them.[7] Diophantus (3rd century AD) was an Alexandrian Greek mathematician and the author of a series of books called Arithmetica. These texts deal with solving algebraic equations,[11] and have led, in number theory, to the modern notion of Diophantine equation.

The Hellenistic mathematicians Hero of Alexandria and Diophantus[13] as well as Indian mathematicians such as Brahmagupta, continued the traditions of Egypt and Babylon, though Diophantus' Arithmetica and Brahmagupta's Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta are on a higher level.[14][better source needed] For example, the first complete arithmetic solution written in words instead of symbols,[15] including zero and negative solutions, to quadratic equations was described by Brahmagupta in his book Brahmasphutasiddhanta, published in 628 AD.[16] Later, Persian and Arab mathematicians developed algebraic methods to a much higher degree of sophistication. Although Diophantus and the Babylonians used mostly special ad hoc methods to solve equations, Al-Khwarizmi's contribution was fundamental. He solved linear and quadratic equations without algebraic symbolism, negative numbers or zero, thus he had to distinguish several types of equations.[17]

In the context where algebra is identified with the theory of equations, the Greek mathematician Diophantus has traditionally been known as the "father of algebra" and in the context where it is identified with rules for manipulating and solving equations, Persian mathematician al-Khwarizmi is regarded as "the father of algebra".[18][19][20][21][22][23][24] It is open to debate whether Diophantus or al-Khwarizmi is more entitled to be known, in the general sense, as "the father of algebra". Those who support Diophantus point to the fact that the algebra found in Al-Jabr is slightly more elementary than the algebra found in Arithmetica and that Arithmetica is syncopated while Al-Jabr is fully rhetorical.[25] Those who support Al-Khwarizmi point to the fact that he introduced the methods of "reduction" and "balancing" (the transposition of subtracted terms to the other side of an equation, that is, the cancellation of like terms on opposite sides of the equation) which the term al-jabr originally referred to,[26] and that he gave an exhaustive explanation of solving quadratic equations,[27] supported by geometric proofs while treating algebra as an independent discipline in its own right.[22] His algebra was also no longer concerned "with a series of problems to be resolved, but an exposition which starts with primitive terms in which the combinations must give all possible prototypes for equations, which henceforward explicitly constitute the true object of study". He also studied an equation for its own sake and "in a generic manner, insofar as it does not simply emerge in the course of solving a problem, but is specifically called on to define an infinite class of problems".[28]

François Viète's work on new algebra at the close of the 16th century was an important step towards modern algebra. In 1637, René Descartes published La Géométrie, inventing analytic geometry and introducing modern algebraic notation. Another key event in the further development of algebra was the general algebraic solution of the cubic and quartic equations, developed in the mid-16th century. The idea of a determinant was developed by Japanese mathematician Seki Kōwa in the 17th century, followed independently by Gottfried Leibniz ten years later, for the purpose of solving systems of simultaneous linear equations using matrices. Gabriel Cramer also did some work on matrices and determinants in the 18th century. Permutations were studied by Joseph-Louis Lagrange in his 1770 paper "Réflexions sur la résolution algébrique des équations" devoted to solutions of algebraic equations, in which he introduced Lagrange resolvents. Paolo Ruffini was the first person to develop the theory of permutation groups, and like his predecessors, also in the context of solving algebraic equations.

Abstract algebra was developed in the 19th century, deriving from the interest in solving equations, initially focusing on what is now called Galois theory, and on constructibility issues.[34] George Peacock was the founder of axiomatic thinking in arithmetic and algebra. Augustus De Morgan discovered relation algebra in his Syllabus of a Proposed System of Logic. Josiah Willard Gibbs developed an algebra of vectors in three-dimensional space, and Arthur Cayley developed an algebra of matrices (this is a noncommutative algebra).[35]

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