For questions about gaining and achieving motivation.

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57
votes
12answers
36k 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 ...
44
votes
7answers
4k views

What's the point of studying topological (as opposed to smooth, PL, or PDiff) manifolds?

Part of the reason I think algebraic topology has acquired something of a fearsome reputation is that the terrible properties of the topological category (e.g. the existence of space-filling curves) ...
35
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 ...
32
votes
7answers
4k 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 ...
29
votes
10answers
1k views

What are the applications of continued fractions?

What is the most motivating way to introduce continued fractions? Are there any real life applications of continued fractions?
28
votes
12answers
578 views

Nonobvious examples of metric spaces that do not work like $\mathbb{R}^n$

This week, I come to the end of the first year analysis, and suffer from a "crisis of motivation." With this question, I want to chase away my thought, "Why is it important to study the general ...
23
votes
4answers
953 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 ...
22
votes
5answers
3k views

Jacobi identity - intuitive explanation

I am really struggling with understanding the Jacobi Identity. I am not struggling with verifying it or calculating commutators.. I just can't see through it. I can't see the motivation behind it (as ...
22
votes
4answers
803 views

Fractional Calculus: Motivation and Foundations.

If this is too broad, I apologise; let's keep it focused on the basics if necessary. What's the motivation and the rigorous foundations behind fractional calculus? It seems very weird & ...
22
votes
3answers
1k views

Why are modular lattices important?

A lattice $(L,\leq)$ is said to be modular when $$(\forall a,b\in L) x \leq b \implies x \vee (a \wedge b) = (x \vee a) \wedge b,$$ where $\vee$ is the join operation, and $\wedge$ is the meet ...
22
votes
4answers
2k views

Motivation behind topology

What is the motivation behind topology? For instance, in real analysis, we are interested in rigorously studying about limits so that we can use them appropriately. Similarly, in number theory, we ...
18
votes
2answers
917 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 ...
17
votes
4answers
2k views

An equation that generates a beautiful or unique shape for motivating students in mathematics

Could anyone here provide us an equation that generates a beautiful or unique shape when we plot? For example, this is old but gold, I found this equation on internet: $$ \large\color{blue}{ ...
17
votes
6answers
377 views

What problems, ideas or questions first got you interested in algebraic geometry?

Obviously, a lot of people are very interested in algebraic geometry. I suppose this means it is a fascinating area. However the few times I have tried to read introductory books and/or articles in ...
16
votes
5answers
1k views

Why study cardinals, ordinals and the like?

Why is the study of infinite cardinals, ordinals and the like so prevalent in set theory and logic? What's so interesting about infinite cardinals beyond $\aleph _0 $ and $\mathfrak{c} $? It seems ...
16
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
330 views

Motivation for the study of amoebas.

What was the primary motivation for the study of the amoebas?
14
votes
6answers
2k 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
661 views

Motivation behind the definition of flat module

Can someone explain what is the motivation behind the definition of a flat module? I saw the definition but I don't really know why it is important to work with these structures.
13
votes
2answers
555 views

Motivating (iso)morphism of varieties

I am reading course notes on algebraic geometry, where a morphism of varieties is defined as follows ($k$ is an algebraically closed field): Let $X$ be a quasi-affine or quasi-projective ...
12
votes
7answers
5k 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
749 views

Book series like AMS' Student Mathematical Library?

I had the joy of discovering AMS' Student Mathematical Library book series today, and I have been pleasantly surprised by how enticing some of the titles seem: exciting and expositionary, a perfect ...
11
votes
3answers
158 views

Applications of functions of the form $f(x)^{g(x)}$

Early on in my calculus education, I learned how to take the derivative of $x^x$ by re-writing it in the form $e^{x\ln x}$. More generally, this technique is helpful in finding the derivative of ...
11
votes
1answer
487 views

How to motivate the axioms for the inner product

Typically, one doesn't just write down lists of axioms and then sees if there are enough interesting examples that satisfy them; they evolve over time, usually from a couple of very ...
10
votes
5answers
2k views

Why is the tensor product constructed in this way?

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 ...
9
votes
4answers
990 views

Topological groups, why need them?

I'm reading through Munkres and Armstrong's books on topology. However, I find topological groups to be really complicated objects! I feel they are twice as hard to deal with then just groups and ...
9
votes
5answers
1k views

Motivation behind the definition of complete metric space

What is motivation behind the definition of a complete metric space? Intuitively,a complete metric is complete if they are no points missing from it. How does the definition of completeness (in ...
9
votes
2answers
672 views

Motivation behind the ingredients of First Cohomology group $H^1$

I started reading the Cohomology theory of groups. But I am not able to get any intuition or motivation behind the following : It is concerned with the formal definitions of crossed and principal ...
9
votes
2answers
337 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 ...
8
votes
4answers
3k views

Order of nontrivial elements is 2 implies Abelian group

If the order of all nontrivial elements in a group is 2, then the group is Abelian. I know of a proof that is just from calculations (see below). I'm wondering if there is any theory or motivation ...
8
votes
2answers
491 views

Motivation of stable homotopy theory

A stable homotopy category can be obtained by modifying the category of pointed CW-complexes: objects are pointed CW-complexes, and for two CW-complexes $X$ and $Y$, we take $$\lbrace X,Y \rbrace = ...
8
votes
3answers
371 views

What's a good motivating example for the concept of a slice category?

What nice example can one give a beginner to really motivate the idea of a slice category, before they've met the more general notion of a comma category? There's the toy example of a poset category ...
8
votes
2answers
165 views

Demonstrating the value of abstracting away from elements/subsets to maps

Given a set $S$, here are 5 ways of thinking about elements of $S$, in increasing abstraction: an actual element, e.g. $s\in S$ an inclusion map, e.g. $i_s:\{s\}\hookrightarrow S$ an ...
8
votes
1answer
758 views

History behind Exact Sequences.

I am very much interested in listening to the history behind the exact sequence. We know that the exact sequence is sequence of objects with morphisms such that image of one morphism equals to the ...
8
votes
1answer
132 views

Representation theory approach VS Module theory approach?

Given an associative algebra $A$, there is a correspondence between representations of $A$ and left $A-$ modules. Thus, one can study the representation theory of an associative algebra via its left ...
7
votes
2answers
217 views

Why study integrality?

Here are a few of the basic definitions related to integrality. (1) A polynomial in $R[x]$ is monic if its leading coefficient is $1$. (2) An element is integral over a ring $R$ if it ...
7
votes
4answers
595 views

Why the axioms for a topological space are those axioms?

This question might have even been asked here before, I don't really know, so sorry if it's duplicate. I've started to study topological spaces and I've found the axioms for such spaces kind of hard ...
7
votes
1answer
353 views

What is the significance of limit points?

When I had my first taste of topology a couple of years ago, our lecturer emphasized the following notions. closed set, closure, closure point open set, interior, interior point Of course, these ...
7
votes
1answer
72 views

Motivation behind parameters

This article shows a technique of evaluating a definite integral by introducing a suitable parameter. This however doesn't throw light on motivation for introducing that particular parameter. For ...
6
votes
2answers
183 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
89 views

What is the motivation to continuous functions and measurable functions?

In topology the objects of interest are the space open sets, and a function will be continuous if the inverse image of any open set is an open set. In measure theory the objects of interest are the ...
6
votes
1answer
211 views

Can we capture all domains of discouse in the predicate logic within categorical logic?

In the construction of the bounded quantifiers via adjoints in the fibered category of subsets over a set (see e.g. here on Wikipedia), is there any restriction on the sets - specifically regarding ...
6
votes
3answers
784 views

Quaternions vs Axis angle

Whats the use of representing rotation with quaternions compared to normal axis angle representation? I've been trying to learn quaternions and they make enough sense but as far as I can tell ...
6
votes
1answer
100 views

Recovering the structure of an object from its morphism:Yoneda Lemma

I've heard that Yoneda lemma informally states that one can recover the internal structure of an object by looking at the morphism coming out from that object. But this is not clear to me from the ...
6
votes
1answer
61 views

Motivation for and differences between properties of measure, outer measure

This is related to my measure theory class, but it's not homework. The motivation behind this post is to understand the big picture relationship between properties of measure and outer measure. I ...
6
votes
1answer
217 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
6answers
506 views

What is the point of quadratic residues?

What is the most motivating way to introduce quadratic residues? Are there any real life examples of quadratic residues? Why is the Law of Quadratic Reciprocity considered as one of the most ...
5
votes
5answers
460 views

About Trigonometry

Is there anything cool about trigonometry? I was just curious. I'm learning trig right now and I often find myself asking myself, "What's the point?" I feel if I knew what I was working on and why, ...
5
votes
3answers
163 views

Finitely generated ideal in Boolean ring; how do we motivate the generator?

This problem is Exercise 11.3 in Atiyah/Macdonald Commutative Algebra. They ask to prove every finitely generated ideal in a Boolean ring is in fact a principal ideal. The question has been answered ...
5
votes
1answer
401 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 ...