The Mathematics Portal
Mathematics is the study of numbers, quantity, space, pattern, structure, and change. 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.
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Fourteen ways of triangulating a hexagon Image credit: User:Dmharvey |
The Catalan numbers, named for the Belgian mathematician Eugène Charles Catalan, are a sequence of natural numbers that are important in combinatorial mathematics. The sequence begins:
The Catalan numbers are solutions to numerous counting problems which often have a recursive flavour. In fact, one author lists over 60 different possible interpretations of these numbers. For example, the n^{th} Catalan number is the number of full binary trees with n internal nodes, or n+1 leaves. It is also the number of ways of associating n applications of a binary operator as well as the number of ways that a convex polygon with n + 2 sides can be cut into triangles by connecting vertices with straight lines.
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Simpson's paradox (also known as the Yule–Simpson effect) states that an observed association between two variables can reverse when considered at separate levels of a third variable (or, conversely, that the association can reverse when separate groups are combined). Shown here is an illustration of the paradox for quantitative data. In the graph the overall association between X and Y is negative (as X increases, Y tends to decrease when all of the data is considered, as indicated by the negative slope of the dashed line); but when the blue and red points are considered separately (two levels of a third variable, color), the association between X and Y appears to be positive in each subgroup (positive slopes on the blue and red lines — note that the effect in real-world data is rarely this extreme). Named after British statistician Edward H. Simpson, who first described the paradox in 1951 (in the context of qualitative data), similar effects had been mentioned by Karl Pearson (and coauthors) in 1899, and by Udny Yule in 1903. One famous real-life instance of Simpson's paradox occurred in the UC Berkeley gender-bias case of the 1970s, in which the university was sued for gender discrimination because it had a higher admission rate for male applicants to its graduate schools than for female applicants (and the effect was statistically significant). The effect was reversed, however, when the data was split by department: most departments showed a small but significant bias in favor of women. The explanation was that women tended to apply to competitive departments with low rates of admission even among qualified applicants, whereas men tended to apply to less-competitive departments with high rates of admission among qualified applicants. (Note that splitting by department was a more appropriate way of looking at the data since it is individual departments, not the university as a whole, that admit graduate students.)
Did you know -
- ...that it is impossible to devise a single formula involving only polynomials and radicals for solving an arbitrary quintic equation?
- ...that you cannot knot strings in 4 dimensions, but you can knot 2-dimensional surfaces, such as spheres?
- ...that there are 6 unsolved mathematics problems whose solutions will earn you one million US dollars each?
- ...that there are different sizes of infinite sets in set theory? More precisely, not all infinite cardinal numbers are equal?
- ...that every natural number can be written as the sum of four squares?
- ...that the largest known prime number is nearly 25 million digits long?
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