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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18
votes
6answers
11k views

What software and/or language to use to take Math lecture notes? [closed]

I have a terrible hand-writing and I'm very good at typing, so I had an idea about taking my math lecture notes using a computer. I've tried using a simple syntax (using purely ASCII) but it's ...
18
votes
2answers
31k views

Weird E letter? (sigma) [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What does the math notation $\sum$ mean? My school's prescribed book uses the weird letter E character without explaining what it is in the first chapter when it talks ...
18
votes
2answers
2k views

The Gamma function and the Pi function

I have been studying differential equation, in particular special functions. Euler's Gamma function, and Gauss's Pi function are essentially the same, differing only by an offset of one unit. for ...
17
votes
9answers
2k views

Is there an interval notation for complex numbers?

Just as $$\{x \in \mathbb{R}: a \leq x \leq b\}$$ can be written in the more-compact form $[a,b],$ is there an analogous notation for $$\{z \in \mathbb{C}:z=x+yi, x \in[a,b], y \in[c,d]\} \quad ?$$ ...
17
votes
6answers
4k views

How many digits does the integer zero have?

Should zero be classified as having no digits, or 1 digit?
17
votes
5answers
1k 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 ...
17
votes
10answers
1k views

Challenge: Demonstrate a Contradiction in Leibniz' differential notation

I want to know if the Leibniz differential notation actually leads to contradictions - I am starting to think it does not. And just to eliminate the most commonly showcased 'difficulty': For the ...
17
votes
5answers
2k 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?)
17
votes
4answers
712 views

How to explain this quirk of the chain rule?

Assume I have a function $f = f(y, \phi(y,x))$ and I want to calculate $\frac{\partial f}{\partial y}$, I use the chain rule to get \begin{equation} \frac{\partial f}{\partial y} = \frac{\partial ...
16
votes
3answers
20k 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 $\mathbb R - \mathbb Q$?
16
votes
1answer
999 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 ...
16
votes
5answers
7k views

Contradiction! Any Symbol for?

Perhaps, this question has been answered ago but I don't aware of its existing answer. Is there any international icon or symbol for showing Contradiction or reacing a contradiction in Mathematical ...
16
votes
5answers
777 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 ...
16
votes
3answers
650 views

Mathematical Notation and its importance

You can see how mathematical notation evolved during the last centuries here. I think everyone here knows that a bad notation can change an otherwise elementar problem into a difficult problem. Just ...
16
votes
1answer
303 views

How and why did Weierstrass $\wp$ get its special symbol?

I kind of always hated drawing the Weierstrass $\wp$ symbol by hand, and it struck me as odd how and why it achieved its special status in the first place. After all, there are tons of other important ...
16
votes
1answer
242 views

$\sin$ vs. $sin$ - history and usage

One thing newcomers to TeX or MathJax often get wrong is that they write something like $sin(x)$ instead of $\sin(x)$ - the point being that common mathematical functions with names consisting of ...
15
votes
7answers
1k views

What does $\ll$ mean?

I saw two less than signs on this Wikipedia article and I was wonder what they meant mathematically. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_tank_problem EDIT: It looks like this can use TeX commands. ...
15
votes
2answers
2k 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. ...
15
votes
3answers
3k views

If $\frac{dy}{dt}dt$ doesn't cancel, then what do you call it?

I have $y$ is a function of $t$. I have reached a situation here where I need to evaluate $$\displaystyle \int_0^b{\frac{dy}{dt}dt}$$ Now clearly $y$ has dependence on $t$, otherwise $\displaystyle ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

Usage of dx in Integrals

All the integrals I'm familiar with have the form: $\int f(x)\mathrm{d}x$. And I understand these as the sum of infinite tiny rectangles with an area of: $f(x_i)\cdot\mathrm{d}x$. Is it valid ...
15
votes
3answers
4k 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. ...
15
votes
4answers
1k views

Donald Knuth's summation notation confuses me.

I do not understand a lot of cases of Knuth's summation notation in Concrete Mathematics. In general, I cannot seem to get a grasp on the commutative law as applied to manipulating sums. The ...
15
votes
2answers
30k views

multiplication equivalent of the summation symbol

I was curious (even though this is a very amateur question)... what would the multiplication equivalent of sigma (the summation symbol) be? $$\sum$$ I want to do a series of multiplication of ...
15
votes
2answers
1k views

What does “∈” mean?

I have started seeing the "∈" symbol in math. What exactly does it mean? I have tried googling it but google takes the symbol out of the search.
15
votes
1answer
7k views

What's more common? Re / Im or Fraktur-R / Fraktur-I for real / imaginary part?

Title says it all. What's more common? Is there one to prefere (maybe due to some norm)? This: $\operatorname{\mathfrak{R}} z, \operatorname{\mathfrak{I}} z$ or that: $\operatorname{Re}z, ...
15
votes
2answers
408 views

Looking for an approach to mathematical notation wherein the universe is divided into disjoint worlds.

Is there a rigorous approach to mathematical notation wherein the "universe" is divided into disjoint "worlds," and the meaning of notation is world-dependent? This would solve a few pesky problems. ...
14
votes
6answers
918 views

Notation of the differential operator

I see the differential operator both with upright and italic d in different books/articles. So I'm curious about $$ \int x^2 \, dx \quad \text{vs.} \quad \int x^2\, \mathrm{d}x,$$ and ...
14
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
14
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
1k views

Set builder notation, left or right of :| convention

Set builder notation which specify a subset such as $Z$ or $R$ tend to put this condition on the left, whereas other conditions go on the right. $$\{ x ∈ Z : x > 0 \}$$ Why is this preferred ...
14
votes
6answers
1k views

Appropriate Notation: $\equiv$ versus $:=$

With respect to assignments/definitions, when is it appropriate to use $\equiv$ as in $$M \equiv \max\{b_1, b_2, \dots, b_n\}$$ which I encountered in my analysis textbook as opposed to the ...
14
votes
4answers
2k 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.
14
votes
5answers
8k 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
479 views

How to write $\aleph$ by hand

So far, I've only seen the symbol $\aleph$ in its printed form and am wondering how this symbol could be written by hand on paper or on a board (in mathematical contexts, of course). Whenever I try to ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

What do $\{ceps_q\}_{q=0}^Q$ and $\{a_q\}_{q=1}^p$ mean?

As a programmer who hasn't had any higher mathematical training, I sometimes find mathematical equations described in books or online that I'd like to implement in my programs, but they have symbols ...
14
votes
2answers
10k views

What are usual notations for surjective, injective and bijective functions?

Update: In the category of sets, an epimorphism is a surjective map and a monomorphism is an injective map. As is mentioned in the morphisms question, the usual notation is $\rightarrowtail$ or ...
14
votes
3answers
7k 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.
14
votes
4answers
716 views

Solving (quadratic) equations of iterated functions, such as $f(f(x))=f(x)+x$

In this thread, the question was to find a $f: \mathbb{R} \to \mathbb{R}$ such that $$f(f(x)) = f(x) + x$$ (which was revealed in the comments to be solved by $f(x) = \varphi x$ where $\varphi$ is ...
14
votes
5answers
2k views

use of $\sum $ for uncountable indexing set

I was wondering whether it makes sense to use the $\sum $ notation for uncountable indexing sets. For example it seems to me it would not make sense to say $$ \sum_{a \in A} a \quad \text{where A is ...
14
votes
2answers
2k 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". ...
14
votes
1answer
856 views

What does this joke mean?

I saw this written on a blackboard in the math department building the other day: Gas Law: $PV=nRT$ Ideal Gas Law: $(P)(V)=(n)(R)(T)$ I know the ideal gas law is something from chemistry, but I'm ...
14
votes
1answer
19k 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 $[\log(n)]^2$
14
votes
2answers
427 views

The double factorial notation

The double factorial is defined as $$n!! = \begin{cases} n \cdot (n-2) \cdot (n-4) \cdots 3 \cdot 1 = \dfrac{(n+1)!}{2^{(n+1)/2}((n+1)/2)!} & \text{ If $n \in \mathbb{Z}^+$, is odd}\\ n \cdot ...
14
votes
1answer
363 views

Did Einstein introduce anything new to mathematics? [duplicate]

Newton introduced calculus, so I am wondering, did Einstein introduce anything important to mathematics?
13
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 ...
13
votes
11answers
5k views

Dividing by 2 numbers at once, what is the answer?

Let's say i have 4/1/5. or 4 divided by 1 divided by 5. Are there any rules that i am allowed to use to stop any mistakes?, for example this has 2 solutions, 4/5 , and 20. Edit: Thanks for your ...
13
votes
4answers
3k views

Is there a symbol for plus and minus as opposed to plus or minus?

I know that you can use $\pm$ for when the answer could be either positive or negative, e.g., $x^2=16$, $x=\pm 4$. But is there a symbol that implies that you use both the positive and the negative ...
13
votes
5answers
893 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 ...
13
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 ...
13
votes
8answers
914 views

Why does the logarithm require a special notation?

Since the logarithm is the reversed exponentiation, why does it need a distinct notation for it? Why can't we just ask: $$2^x=8$$ Instead of: $$\log_2 8=x$$