Math Studies Algebra, Fall 2017

Robot flying a dodecahedral balloon over fields
From symmetry groups to fields
© 2015 Laure Bukh
Used with permission


Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays 13:30


Wean Hall 8427 [map]


Algebra is the art of changing the perspective. The change is mainly achieved through abstraction, which strips the irrelevant details and brings the important to the forefront. The extra generality also enables the connections between far-flung mathematical concepts.

The aim of this course is both to introduce the algebraic way of thinking, and to convey the basic language of algebra. That language is the language of groups, rings, modules, fields. We shall see, for example, how the group theory unifies such topics as integer arithmetic, tessellations, solubility of polynomial equations, and counting holes in a pretzel. We shall also learn and use some category theory, which is a higher-level abstraction that unifies different algebraic notions.


The book for the course is Abstract Algebra, 3rd ed., by Dummit and Foote. A copy of the first edition is on reserve in the library.

Not all topics that we cover are in the book, and some topics we will cover differently.

Links to additional resources will be posted as the course progresses.

More fun:

More fun can be had at my office hours on Wednesdays 2:30–3:30pm and Thursdays 9:30–10:30am in Wean 6202. I am also available by appointment.

Course activities:

Mastery of any subject requires practice. Hence, there will be regular homeworks. For your own good, you are strongly encouraged to do as much homework as possible individually. Collaboration and use of external sources are permitted, but must be fully acknowledged and cited. All the writing must be done individually. Failure to do so will be treated as cheating. Collaboration may involve only discussion; all the writing must be done individually. The homeworks will be returned one week after they are due.

Students are expected to fully participate in the class. The main advantage of a class over just reading a textbook is the ability to ask questions, propose ideas, and interact in other ways. In particular, discussions during the lectures are encouraged.

In the fall semester, the homework will count for 30% of the grade. During the semester there will be two in-class tests (on September 29, November 6). Each test will count for 20% of the grade. A take-home final exam will count for 30%. No collaboration or use of external resources is allowed on tests or on the final.

Homework must be submitted in LaTeX via e-mail. I want both the LaTeX file and the PDF that is produced from it. The filenames must be of the form lastname_alg_homeworknumber.tex and lastname_alg_homeworknumber.pdf respectively. Pictures do not have to be typeset; a legible photograph of a hand-drawn picture is acceptable.

The homework must be submitted by 1:30pm of the day it is due. For each minute that it is late, the grade will be reduced by 10%.

Staying sane and healthy:

This is an honors course. It is designed to challenge your brain with new and exciting mathematics, not to wear your body down with sleepless nights. Start the assignments early, and get good nutrition and exercise. Pace yourself, for semester is long. If you find yourself falling behind or constantly tired, talk to me.


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