Can $(X_1,X_2) \cap (X_3,X_4)$ be generated with two elements in the ring $R=k[X_1,X_2,X_3,X_4]$? Can it be generated with three elements? (Here $k$ is a field.)
Thanks for any help.
Localize at the maximal ideal $m = (X_1, X_2, X_3, X_4)$. The number of generators can only drop, so it's enough to show that $I_m$ requires more than $2$ generators, where $I = (X_1, X_2) \cap (X_3, X_4)$ is your ideal. But a local ring has a well-defined notion of minimal number of generators, which is also a vector space dimension. Thus it's enough to find $3$ linearly independent elements in the $k$-vector space $I_m/mI_m$ ($\cong I/mI$).
Note: this assumes that $k$ is a field.