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Mathematics encompasses a growing variety and depth of subjects over its history, and comprehension of it requires a system to categorize and organize these various subjects into more general areas of mathematics or fields of mathematics.[opinion] A number of different classification schemes have arisen, and though they share some similarities, there are differences due in part to the different purposes they serve.

A traditional division of mathematics is into pure mathematics; mathematics studied for its intrinsic interest, and applied mathematics; the mathematics that can be directly applied to real-world problems.[neutrality is disputed][note 1] This division is not always clear and many subjects have been developed as pure mathematics to find unexpected applications later on. Broad divisions, such as discrete mathematics, computational mathematics and so on have emerged more recently.

An ideal system of classification permits adding new areas into the organization of previous knowledge, and fitting surprising discoveries and unexpected interactions into the outline.[opinion] For example, the Langlands program has found unexpected connections between areas previously thought unconnected, at least Galois groups, Riemann surfaces and number theory.

Classification systems

Major divisions of mathematics

Pure mathematics

Main article: Pure mathematics

Foundations of mathematics

Main article: Foundations of mathematics

Mathematicians have always worked with logic and symbols, but for centuries the underlying laws of logic were taken for granted, and never expressed symbolically. Mathematical logic, also known as symbolic logic, was developed when people finally realized that the tools of mathematics can be used to study the structure of logic itself. Areas of research in this field have expanded rapidly, and are usually subdivided into several distinct subfields.


Main article: Mathematical analysis

Within mathematics, analysis is the branch that focuses on functions, limits, derivatives, rates of change, integrals, and multiple things changing relative to (or independently of) one another.

Modern analysis is a vast and rapidly expanding branch of mathematics that touches almost every other subdivision of the discipline, finding direct and indirect applications in topics as diverse as number theory, cryptography, and abstract algebra. It is also the language of science itself[dubious ] and is used across chemistry, biology, and physics, from astrophysics to X-ray crystallography. Within mathematics itself analysis is commonly used in other mathematical disciplines such as analytic number theory, probability theory, and differential geometry. As one of the largest branches of pure mathematics it has many subfields.


Main article: Algebra

The study of structure begins with numbers, first the familiar natural numbers and integers and their arithmetical operations, which are recorded in elementary algebra. The deeper properties of these 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 groups, rings, and fields, structures that generalize the properties possessed by everyday numbers. Long standing questions about compass and straightedge constructions were finally settled by Galois theory. The physically important concept of vectors, generalized to vector spaces, is studied in linear algebra. The study of general algebraic structures by their behavior in vector spaces is known as representation theory. Themes common to all kinds of algebraic structures are studied in universal algebra.

Number theory

Main article: Number theory

Number theory is the study of numbers and the properties of operations between them. Number theory is traditionally concerned with the properties of integers, but more recently, it has come to be concerned with wider classes of problems that have arisen naturally from the study of integers.


Main article: Combinatorics

Combinatorics is the study of finite or discrete collections of objects that satisfy specified criteria. In particular, it is concerned with "counting" the objects in those collections (enumerative combinatorics) and with deciding whether certain "optimal" objects exist (extremal combinatorics). It includes graph theory, used to describe interconnected objects (a graph in this sense is a network, or collection of connected points). See also the list of combinatorics topics, list of graph theory topics and glossary of graph theory. A combinatorial flavour is present in many parts of problem solving.


Main article: Geometry

Geometry deals with spatial relationships, using fundamental qualities or axioms. Such axioms can be used in conjunction with mathematical definitions for points, straight lines, curves, surfaces, and solids to draw logical conclusions. See also List of geometry topics.


Deals with the properties of a figure that do not change when the figure is continuously deformed. The main areas are point set topology (or general topology), algebraic topology, and the topology of manifolds, defined below.

Applied mathematics

Main article: Applied mathematics

Probability and statistics

See also: Glossary of probability and statistics

Computational mathematics

Main article: Computational mathematics

See also: Computational science

Mathematical physics

Further information: Continuum mechanics, Elasticity (physics), and Plasticity (physics)

Further information: Energy principles in structural mechanics, Flexibility method, Direct stiffness method, and Finite element method

Further information: Solid state physics, Materials science, Mechanics of materials, Mechanics of solids, Fracture mechanics, Deformation (mechanics), and Deformable bodies

Further information: Fluid dynamics, Mechanics of fluids, Rheology, Electrodynamics, Plasma Physics, Gas dynamics, and Aerodynamics

Other applied mathematics


Philosophy of mathematics

The philosophy of mathematics is the branch of philosophy that studies the assumptions, foundations, and implications of mathematics. It aims to understand the nature and methods of mathematics, and find out the place of mathematics in people's lives.

History of mathematics and biographies of mathematicians

The history of mathematics is inextricably intertwined with the subject itself. This is perfectly natural: mathematics has an internal organic structure, deriving new theorems from those that have come before. As each new generation of mathematicians builds upon the achievements of their ancestors, the subject itself expands and grows new layers.

Recreational mathematics

From magic squares to the Mandelbrot set, numbers have been a source of amusement and delight for millions of people throughout the ages. Many important branches of "serious" mathematics have their roots in what was once a mere puzzle and/or game.

See also


  1. ^ For example, the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition groups its mathematics articles as Pure, Applied, and Biographies.