Mathematics

"Maths" and "Math" redirect here. For other uses of "Mathematics" or "Math", see Mathematics (disambiguation) and Math (disambiguation).

Euclid, Greek mathematician, 3rd century BC, as imagined by Raphael in this detail from The School of Athens.[1]

Mathematics (from Greek μ?θημα máthema "knowledge, study, learning") is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change.[2][3] Mathematicians seek out patterns[4][5] and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity. The research required to solve mathematical problems can take years or even centuries of sustained inquiry. However, mathematical proofs are less formal and painstaking than proofs in mathematical logic. Since the pioneering work of Giuseppe Peano, David Hilbert, and others on axiomatic systems in the late 19th century, it has become customary to view mathematical research as establishing truth by rigorous deduction from appropriately chosen axioms and definitions. When those mathematical structures are good models of real phenomena, then mathematical reasoning often provides insight or predictions.

Through the use of abstraction and logical reasoning, mathematics evolved from counting, calculation, measurement, and the systematic study of the shapes and motions of physical objects. Practical mathematics has been a human activity for as far back as written records exist. Rigorous arguments first appeared in Greek mathematics, most notably in Euclid's Elements. Mathematics continued to develop, for example in China in 300 BC, in India in AD 100[citation needed], and in the Muslim world in AD 800, until the Renaissance, when mathematical innovations interacting with new scientific discoveries led to a rapid increase in the rate of mathematical discovery that continues to the present day.[6]

The mathematician Benjamin Peirce called mathematics "the science that draws necessary conclusions".[7] David Hilbert said of mathematics, "We are not speaking here of arbitrariness in any sense. Mathematics is not like a game whose tasks are determined by arbitrarily stipulated rules. Rather, it is a conceptual system possessing internal necessity that can only be so and by no means otherwise."[8] Albert Einstein stated that "as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."[9]

Mathematics is used throughout the world as an essential tool in many fields, including natural science, engineering, medicine, and the social sciences. Applied mathematics, the branch of mathematics concerned with application of mathematical knowledge to other fields, inspires and makes use of new mathematical discoveries and sometimes leads to the development of entirely new mathematical disciplines, such as statistics and game theory. Mathematicians also engage in pure mathematics, or mathematics for its own sake, without having any application in mind. There is no clear line separating pure and applied mathematics, and practical applications for what began as pure mathematics are often discovered.[10]