Welcome to Math 261, Introduction to Number Theory.
Instructor: Cornelia Yuen
Texts: Elementary Introduction to Number Theory, Third Edition, by Calvin T. Long.
Course Content: We will study the basic concepts, ideas, results, and algorithms of number theory, covered in Chapters 1-5 of the text (but not in that order). We will also cover some supplementary topics. Students should know the precise definitions and statements of theorems and concepts.
Group work: Although I will do a significant amount of lecturing, we will also work at times in groups of three or four in class on exploratory problems, discovery exercises, and skill development. You will also occasionally do in-class presentations with the support of your groupmates.
Graded homework: Homework will be assigned regularly. The problems sets must be handed in class on the due day of the work.
Quizzes: Quizzes will be given, usually with advance warning, every two weeks or so, but not on a rigidly regular schedule.
Exams: We will have two midterms and one cumulative final exam, spaced roughly equally throughout the semester. Of course, it is a very bad idea to be absent on an exam day. But in some cases, especially serious illness and prior arrangement, excused absences can be warranted.
Grade weighting: You will be graded in three areas: homework (30%), quizzes (15%), and exams (15%,20%,20%). Class participation and attendance will be graded only indirectly, by means of exams.
Attendance: Class attendance is mandatory.
Number theory is the branch of mathematics which studies the properties of numbers. Carl Friedrick Gauss (1777-1855), often known as the "prince of mathematics", once remarked that mathematics is the "queen of sciences" but number theory is the "queen of mathematics".
There are several fields of number theory. In this course, we study elementary number theory, in which elementary methods (e.g. arithmetic, high school algebra) are used to solve equations with integeral or rational solutions. Some of the major topics/techniques we will explore include
Many questions in number theory can be stated in elementary number theoretic terms, but their answers may not be as easy as the problems first suggest, and they may fall outside the realm of elementary number theory. One of the most famous examples is Fermat's last theorem (there is no integral solution for the equation xn+yn=zn for n > 2), which was stated in 1637 but only recently proved in 1994. Another example is the Goldbach's conjecture (every even number can be written as the sum of two primes), which was proposed in 1742 and remains unproven.
One important way to succeed is to know the precise definitions and statements of theorems and concepts. Please make an attempt to digest and retain these at all times.
We will have a review session in class on Wednesday 2/7. This is not another hour for me to lecture, but rather an opportunity for you to ask questions which may have come up while you are studying for the exam. If you have any questions/concern/difficulty regarding specific homework problems, exercises in the textbook and/or material we covered in class, you are most welcome to bring them with you.