Question on the meaning, history, and usage of mathematical symbols and notation. Please remember to mention where (book, paper, webpage, etc.) you encountered any mathematical notation you are asking about.

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727 views

Notation Question: What does $\vdash$ mean in logic?

In a "math structures" class at the community college I'm attending (uses the book Discrete Math by Epp, and is basically a discrete math "light" edition), we've been covering some basic logic. I've ...
13
votes
3answers
3k views

What does this symbol mean? (looks like a 1 with double vertical line)

I'm studying a course on probability and statistics and at some point this symbol comes up without introduction. It looks like the number one, but slightly bigger and with a double vertical line. ...
13
votes
2answers
997 views

Etymology of $\arccos$, $\arcsin$ & $\arctan$?

Does anyone know the origin of the words $\arccos$, $\arcsin$ & $\arctan$? That is to say, why are they named like this? What connects "arc" with inverse? Can't seem to find out via Google. ...
13
votes
3answers
243 views

Working with subsets, as opposed to elements.

Especially in algebraic contexts, we can often work with subsets, as opposed to elements. For instance, in a ring we can define $$A+B = \{a+b\mid a \in A, b \in B\},\quad -A = \{-a\mid a \in A\}$$ ...
13
votes
1answer
188 views

Did Einstein introduce anything new to mathematics? [duplicate]

Newton introduced calculus, so I am wondering, did Einstein introduce anything important to mathematics?
12
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4answers
17k views

What is 48÷2(9+3)? [duplicate]

There is a huge debate on the internet on $48÷2(9+3)$. I figured if i wanted to know the answer this is the best place to ask. I believe it is 2 as i believe it is part of the bracket operation in ...
12
votes
8answers
3k views

How would you count a base > 36 system?

When I am counting in a base greater than ten, I can use the letters of the alphabet. What do I use when I run out of those? What comes after z?: 0, 1, 2, 3... 9, a, b, c, d... x, y, z, (?) And ...
12
votes
5answers
840 views

Should the notation $\int_{0}^{x} f(x) dx$ be frowned upon?

In old mathematics books, I see a lot of notations like $\int_{0}^{x} f(x) dx$. For example, Courant-Hilbert: Methods of mathematical physics. However, when I wrote it in this site, it was sometimes ...
12
votes
7answers
677 views

Does $\,x>0\,$ hint that $\,x\in\mathbb R\,$?

Does $x>0$ suggest that $x\in\mathbb R$? For numbers not in $\,\mathbb R\,$ (e.g. in $\mathbb C\setminus \mathbb R$), their sizes can't be compared. So can I omit "$\,x\in\mathbb R\,$" and ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

What does the notation $[0,1)$ mean?

I am studying the procedure for bucket sort from Introduction To Algorithms by Cormen et al, which assumes that the input is generated by a random process that distributes the elements uniformly and ...
12
votes
3answers
845 views

Symbol for unknown relation?

When solving equations like $$\begin{align} 4x-4 &=\frac{(2x)^2}{x} \\ -4 &= \frac{4x^2}{x} -4x \\ -4 &= 4x -4x \\[0.2em] -4 &= 0\end{align}$$ using the equality-symbol feels like ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

Is it possible to write a number in a base of less than 1?

Following on from this question: http://math.stackexchange.com/a/217112/45127 If we take base 10 as an example, the granularity is 1. I.e. we increment the digits in an increment of 1 until we ...
12
votes
2answers
1k views

Is $A \times B$ the same as $A \oplus B$?

When $A, B$ are $K$-modules, then $A \times B$ is the same as $A \oplus B$. Let $A, B$ be two $K$-algebras, where $K$ is a field. Is $A \times B$ the same as $A \oplus B$? Thank you very much. ...
12
votes
9answers
840 views

Strangest Notation? [closed]

While this may be a fruitless pursuit of anecdotes, I still ask: what is the strangest (or most blatantly wrong (at least in the eyes of common notation)) mathematical notation you have ever seen?
12
votes
4answers
1k views

Notation question: Integrating against a measure

Suppose $\mu$ is a measure. Is there any difference in meaning between the notation $\int f(x)d\mu(x)$ and the notation $\int f(x) \mu(dx)$? Many thanks.
12
votes
3answers
12k views

Element-wise (or pointwise) operations notation?

Is there a notation for element-wise (or pointwise) operations? For example, take the element-wise product of two vectors x and y (in Matlab, x .* y, in numpy x*y), producing a new vector of same ...
12
votes
1answer
501 views

Using $\bigvee$ and $\bigwedge$ instead $\exists$ and $\forall$

My professor of Algebra use some "strange" notation for me. He uses $\bigvee$ instead $\exists$ and $\bigwedge$ instead $\forall$. For example $$\displaystyle\bigwedge_{x\in \mathbb{Z}}\bigwedge_{m\in ...
12
votes
3answers
435 views

Uses for esoteric integral symbols

A while ago, I was searching for a TeX package which would provide a double integral symbol with a circle which I could use to typeset some lecture notes on surface integrals. I happened upon the ...
12
votes
1answer
11k views

What's the correct notation for log squared?

I ran across these two notations for the log function (squared), which one is more conventional. $\log^2(n)$ or $[\log(n)]^2$
11
votes
6answers
1k views

In written mathematics, is $f(x)$a function or a number?

I often see notation/wording like "let $f(x)$ be a continuous function" or "let $f(x) \in C^0(\mathbb{R})$". I would say that $\sin$ and $x \mapsto \sin(x)$ are functions, while $\sin(x)$ is a real ...
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votes
4answers
4k views

Why does drawing $\square$ mean the end of a proof?

To end a proof, I often write "as was to be shown" or "q.e.d". Both of these terms make sense to me as a reader. On the other hand, I feel a little strange to put down $\square$ although I saw it ...
11
votes
3answers
726 views

History of notation: “!”

Does anyone know where the factorial "!" symbol came from? I can't decide if it is my favorite or least favorite notation in mathematics...
11
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4answers
391 views

Notation problem in integration: write $dx$ or ${\mathrm{d}}x$?

I have a question. When I write the integral of a generic function $f(x)$, do I have to write $$\int f(x) \color{red}dx$$ or $$\int f(x) \color{red}{\mathrm{d}}x \quad ?$$ Why? Thank you!
11
votes
1answer
191 views

Is the equation $\phi(\pi(\phi^\pi)) = 1$ true? And if so, how?

$\phi(\pi(\phi^\pi)) = 1$ I saw it on an expired flier for a lecture at the university. I don't know what $\phi$ is, so I tried asking Wolfram Alpha to solve $x \pi x^\pi = 1$ and it gave me a bunch ...
11
votes
4answers
878 views

Why doesn't Spivak ever write $dx$ in an integral?

I've noticed that Spivak, and many other analysis books I read like Munkres, do not use $dx$ when they integrate. Why is that? This is a serious question.
11
votes
5answers
575 views

What are reasons why some symbols in mathematical logic are not standardized?

Why is so hard to find a standardisation regarding symbolism and/or terminology in Mathematical Logic ? We see again and again students asking if e.g. $\rightarrow$ and $\implies$ means the same ...
11
votes
3answers
4k views

How did the square root get its shape?

I was wondering when in history did people start use the $\sqrt{}$ sign for square root, what did they use before, and why this curious nomenclature is adopted.
11
votes
4answers
199 views

The origin of the function $f(x)$ notation

What are the historical origins of the $f(x)$ notation used for functions? That is when did people start to use this notation instead of just thinking in terms of two different variables one being ...
11
votes
2answers
843 views

Why is “h” used for entropy?

Why is the letter "h" (or "H") used to denote entropy in information theory, ergodic theory, and physics (and possibly other places)? Edit: I'm looking for an explanation of the original use of "H". ...
11
votes
1answer
175 views

Why is $e$ the Identity?

Some authors use $e$ to be the identity element of a group instead of $1$. What is the origin of this notation? Was this before or after we used $e$ to represent the base of the natural logarithm? ...
11
votes
5answers
1k views

When should I use $=$ and $\equiv$?

In what context should I use $=$ and $\equiv$? What is the precise difference? Thanks! (I wasn't sure what to tag this with, any suggestions?)
11
votes
2answers
451 views

What do Greek Mathematicians use when they use our equivalent Greek letters in formulas and equations?

Like for example, it's common to use the Greek letter $\theta$ to represent an angle right? So what would a Greek person doing math use to represent an angle? Would they also use $\theta$? Or is there ...
11
votes
2answers
629 views

Formalizing Those Readings of Leibniz Notation that Don't Appeal to Infinitesimals/Differentials

[disclaimer: I've studied a lot of logic but never been good at analysis, so that's the angle I'm coming from below] in my attempt to find a precise version of the 'definitions' usually given when ...
10
votes
10answers
737 views

How to pronounce $\setminus$

A question for English speakers. When using (or reading) the symbol $\setminus$ to denote set difference — $$A\setminus B=\{x\in A|x\notin B\}$$ — how do you pronounce it? If you please, ...
10
votes
5answers
2k views

Why does two terms immediately adjacent “mean” multiply?

I am currently teaching a GED math class. While learning about the order of operations, the students asked why does a number next to a parentheses mean multiplication? I understand the rule that two ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Which symbol should be used for an empty set?

Currently, a discussion started on the German Wikipedia article for Empty Set (the German discussion), whether $\emptyset$ or $\varnothing$ should be used or is more common as a symbol for an empty ...
10
votes
3answers
658 views

Who introduced the notation $x^2$?

In the book 'Problem Solving and Number Theory' I read The law of quadratic reciprocity was discovered for the first time, in a complex form, by L. Euler who published it in his paper ...
10
votes
1answer
745 views

$\arcsin$ written as $\sin^{-1}(x)$

I know that different people follow different conventions, but whenever I see $\arcsin(x)$ written as $\sin^{-1}(x)$, I find myself thinking it wrong, since $\sin^{-1}(x)$ should be $\csc(x)$, and not ...
10
votes
3answers
493 views

What is the purpose of the $\mp$ symbol in mathematical usage?

Occasionally I see the $\mp$ symbol, but I don't really know what it is for, except in conjunction with the $\pm$ symbol thus: $a \pm b \mp c$ which (I believe) means $a+b-c$ or $a-b+c$ (please ...
10
votes
1answer
849 views

What does the math notation $\sum$ mean?

I have come across this symbol a few times, and I am not sure what it "does" or what it means: $\Large\sum$
10
votes
8answers
249 views

Avoiding the Integration Constant

I sometimes find writing and keeping track of the constants of integration a somewhat messy job. Yes, sometimes it's necessary but in many situations that I come across in my level of mathematics, it ...
10
votes
2answers
9k views

Is there an accepted symbol for irrational numbers?

$\mathbb Q$ is used to represent rational numbers. $\mathbb R$ is used to represent reals. Is there a symbol or convention that represents irrationals. Possibly $\mathbb R - \mathbb Q$?
10
votes
3answers
344 views

Meaning of $\int\mathop{}\!\mathrm{d}^4x$

What the following formula mean? $$\int\mathop{}\!\mathrm{d}^4x$$ I know that this $\int f(x)\mathop{}\!\mathrm{d}x$ is the integral of the function $f$ over the $x$ variable, but the following ...
10
votes
4answers
401 views

From a mathematician's point of view, what is the purpose of '$dx$' in $\int f(x)\ dx$?

I've done a bit of searching and found a fairly well written explanation, but at the end, the author noted that this explanation seems to work fine for a physicist's purposes - but a mathematician ...
10
votes
5answers
5k views

Backwards epsilon

What does the $\ni$ (backwards element of) symbol mean? It doesn't appear in the Wikipedia list of mathematical symbols, and a Google search for "backwards element of" or "backwards epsilon" turns up ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

What is mathematical basis for the percent symbol (%)?

Percent means 1 part of 100 or 1/100 and is indicated with %. Per mille means 1 part of 1000 or 1/1000 and is indicated with ‰, so it seems that these symbols indicate the mathematical operations ...
10
votes
4answers
804 views

What was the notation for functions before Euler?

According to the Wikipedia article, [Euler] introduced much of the modern mathematical terminology and notation, particularly for mathematical analysis, such as the notion of a mathematical ...
10
votes
2answers
4k views

What is the difference between kernel and null space?

What is the difference, if any, between kernel and null space? I previously understood the kernel to be of a linear map and the null space to be of a matrix: i.e., for any linear map $f : V \to W$, ...
10
votes
4answers
238 views

Why are the order-of-operations conventions good?

Children are sometimes taught silly mnemonics like "PEMDAS" to remember conventions on order of operations. (I never heard of "PEMDAS" until long after graduating from college, as far as I can ...
10
votes
2answers
275 views

Difference between “≈”, “≃”, and “≅”

In mathematical notation, what are the usage differences between the various approximately-equal signs "≈", "≃", and "≅"? The Unicode standard lists all of them inside the Mathematical Operators ...