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26
votes
6answers
2k views

Motivation for spectral graph theory.

Why do we care about eigenvalues of graphs? Of course, any novel question in mathematics is interesting, but there is an entire discipline of mathematics devoted to studying these eigenvalues, so ...
15
votes
4answers
833 views

Fun math for young, bored kids?

For 6 months, I'll be organizing, as part as my volunteer work in an NGO, math classes with small groups (~10 students, aged 16 or 17). These classes are not compulsory, but students willing to stay ...
29
votes
7answers
3k views

Uses of quadratic reciprocity theorem

I want to motivate the quadratic reciprocity theorem, which at first glance does not look too important to justify it being one of Gauss' favorites. So far I can think of two uses that are basic ...
14
votes
3answers
331 views

Book ref. request: “…starting from a mathematically amorphous problem and combining ideas from sources to produce new mathematics…”

I couldn't find Charles Radin's Miles of Tiles at the local university library or the public library, and cannot afford its Amazon price right now. Thus, while sorely disappointed for the moment, I ...
6
votes
2answers
141 views

Motivation for the relations defining $H^1(G,A)$ for non-commutative cohomology

First let me review the definition of first non-commutative cohomology. Let $G$ be a group and $A$ a left $G$-group, i.e. for any $\sigma, \tau\in G$ and $a, b\in A$, one has ...
47
votes
12answers
17k views

Why study linear algebra?

Simply as the title says. I've done some research, but still haven't arrived at an answer I am satisfied with. I know the answer varies in different fields, but in general, why would someone study ...
16
votes
2answers
590 views

Motivation for/history of Jacobi's triple product identity

I'm taking a short number theory course this summer. The first topic we covered was Jacobi's triple product identity. I still have no sense of why this is important, how it arises, how it might have ...
12
votes
6answers
987 views

Motivation of the Gaussian Integral

I read on Wikipedia that Laplace was the first to evaluate $$\int_{-\infty}^\infty e^{-x^2} \, \mathrm dx$$ Does anybody know what he was doing that lead him to that integral? Even better, can ...
5
votes
1answer
169 views

What is the physical meaning of fractional calculus?

What is the physical meaning of the fractional integral and fractional derivative? And many researchers deal with the fractional boundary value problems, and what is the physical background? What ...
5
votes
5answers
1k views

Motivation for the Tensor Product [duplicate]

I've already asked about the definition of tensor product here and now I understand the steps of the construction. I'm just in doubt about the motivation to construct it in that way. Well, if all that ...
4
votes
1answer
272 views

A layman's motivation for non-standard analysis and generalised limits

Disclaimer: My apologies for making such a long question. The question is possibly also rather specific, but I hope that (some parts of) it might be useful in general. Background: I have recently ...
11
votes
7answers
2k views

Why is it important to study combinatorics?

I was having a discussion with my friend Sayan Mukherjee about why we need to study combinatorics which admittedly, is not our favourite subject because we see very less motivation for it(I am not ...
-2
votes
6answers
296 views

What purpose does the use of functions serve in mathematics?

Ok, so I know the overview a bit. I would like to know why one should use one, what they're used for, and maybe even the history behind their purpose. X = X (Y) + 7 ... 5 = 5 (20) + 7 ... 32 is the ...
8
votes
2answers
192 views

Why do we want probabilities to be *countably* additive?

In probability theory, it is (as far as I am aware) universal to equate "probability" with a probabilistic measure in the sense of measure theory (possibly a particularly well behaved measure, but ...
3
votes
0answers
108 views

Do expressions like $(-1)^{2/3}$ show up naturally in pure or applied math?

Let $x$ denote an arbitrary real number. Then $x^n$ makes sense for arbitrary $n \in \mathbb{N},$ via the obvious recursive definition. We can extend this definition by asserting that if $x$ is ...