Combinatorics is an area of mathematics primarily concerned with counting, both as a means and an end in obtaining results, and certain properties of finite structures. It is closely related to many other areas of mathematics and has many applications ranging from logic to statistical physics, from evolutionary biology to computer science, etc.
To fully understand the scope of combinatorics requires a great deal of further amplification, the details of which are not universally agreed upon. According to H.J. Ryser, a definition of the subject is difficult because it crosses so many mathematical subdivisions. Insofar as an area can be described by the types of problems it addresses, combinatorics is involved with
Leon Mirsky has said: "combinatorics is a range of linked studies which have something in common and yet diverge widely in their objectives, their methods, and the degree of coherence they have attained." One way to define combinatorics is, perhaps, to describe its subdivisions with their problems and techniques. This is the approach that is used below. However, there are also purely historical reasons for including or not including some topics under the combinatorics umbrella. Although primarily concerned with finite systems, some combinatorial questions and techniques can be extended to an infinite (specifically, countable) but discrete setting.
Combinatorics is well known for the breadth of the problems it tackles. Combinatorial problems arise in many areas of pure mathematics, notably in algebra, probability theory, topology, and geometry, as well as in its many application areas. Many combinatorial questions have historically been considered in isolation, giving an ad hoc solution to a problem arising in some mathematical context. In the later twentieth century, however, powerful and general theoretical methods were developed, making combinatorics into an independent branch of mathematics in its own right. One of the oldest and most accessible parts of combinatorics is graph theory, which by itself has numerous natural connections to other areas. Combinatorics is used frequently in computer science to obtain formulas and estimates in the analysis of algorithms.
A mathematician who studies combinatorics is called a combinatorialist.
Basic combinatorial concepts and enumerative results appeared throughout the ancient world. In the 6th century BCE, ancient Indian physician Sushruta asserts in Sushruta Samhita that 63 combinations can be made out of 6 different tastes, taken one at a time, two at a time, etc., thus computing all 26 − 1 possibilities. Greek historian Plutarch discusses an argument between Chrysippus (3rd century BCE) and Hipparchus (2nd century BCE) of a rather delicate enumerative problem, which was later shown to be related to Schröder–Hipparchus numbers. In the Ostomachion, Archimedes (3rd century BCE) considers a tiling puzzle.
In the Middle Ages, combinatorics continued to be studied, largely outside of the European civilization. The Indian mathematician Mahāvīra (c. 850) provided formulae for the number of permutations and combinations, and these formulas may have been familiar to Indian mathematicians as early as the 6th century CE. The philosopher and astronomer Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra (c. 1140) established the symmetry of binomial coefficients, while a closed formula was obtained later by the talmudist and mathematician Levi ben Gerson (better known as Gersonides), in 1321. The arithmetical triangle— a graphical diagram showing relationships among the binomial coefficients— was presented by mathematicians in treatises dating as far back as the 10th century, and would eventually become known as Pascal's triangle. Later, in Medieval England, campanology provided examples of what is now known as Hamiltonian cycles in certain Cayley graphs on permutations.
During the Renaissance, together with the rest of mathematics and the sciences, combinatorics enjoyed a rebirth. Works of Pascal, Newton, Jacob Bernoulli and Euler became foundational in the emerging field. In modern times, the works of J.J. Sylvester (late 19th century) and Percy MacMahon (early 20th century) helped lay the foundation for enumerative and algebraic combinatorics. Graph theory also enjoyed an explosion of interest at the same time, especially in connection with the four color problem.
In the second half of the 20th century, combinatorics enjoyed a rapid growth, which led to establishment of dozens of new journals and conferences in the subject. In part, the growth was spurred by new connections and applications to other fields, ranging from algebra to probability, from functional analysis to number theory, etc. These connections shed the boundaries between combinatorics and parts of mathematics and theoretical computer science, but at the same time led to a partial fragmentation of the field.
Enumerative combinatorics is the most classical area of combinatorics and concentrates on counting the number of certain combinatorial objects. Although counting the number of elements in a set is a rather broad mathematical problem, many of the problems that arise in applications have a relatively simple combinatorial description. Fibonacci numbers is the basic example of a problem in enumerative combinatorics. The twelvefold way provides a unified framework for counting permutations, combinations and partitions.
Analytic combinatorics concerns the enumeration of combinatorial structures using tools from complex analysis and probability theory. In contrast with enumerative combinatorics, which uses explicit combinatorial formulae and generating functions to describe the results, analytic combinatorics aims at obtaining asymptotic formulae.
Partition theory studies various enumeration and asymptotic problems related to integer partitions, and is closely related to q-series, special functions and orthogonal polynomials. Originally a part of number theory and analysis, it is now considered a part of combinatorics or an independent field. It incorporates the bijective approach and various tools in analysis and analytic number theory, and has connections with statistical mechanics.
Graphs are basic objects in combinatorics. The questions range from counting (e.g., the number of graphs on n vertices with k edges) to structural (e.g., which graphs contain Hamiltonian cycles) to algebraic questions (e.g., given a graph G and two numbers x and y, does the Tutte polynomial TG(x,y) have a combinatorial interpretation?). Although there are very strong connections between graph theory and combinatorics, these two are sometimes thought of as separate subjects. This is due to the fact that while combinatorial methods apply to many graph theory problems, the two are generally used to seek solutions to different problems.
Design theory is a study of combinatorial designs, which are collections of subsets with certain intersection properties. Block designs are combinatorial designs of a special type. This area is one of the oldest parts of combinatorics, such as in Kirkman's schoolgirl problem proposed in 1850. The solution of the problem is a special case of a Steiner system, which systems play an important role in the classification of finite simple groups. The area has further connections to coding theory and geometric combinatorics.
Finite geometry is the study of geometric systems having only a finite number of points. Structures analogous to those found in continuous geometries (Euclidean plane, real projective space, etc.) but defined combinatorially are the main items studied. This area provides a rich source of examples for design theory. It should not be confused with discrete geometry (combinatorial geometry).
Order theory is the study of partially ordered sets, both finite and infinite. Various examples of partial orders appear in algebra, geometry, number theory and throughout combinatorics and graph theory. Notable classes and examples of partial orders include lattices and Boolean algebras.
Matroid theory abstracts part of geometry. It studies the properties of sets (usually, finite sets) of vectors in a vector space that do not depend on the particular coefficients in a linear dependence relation. Not only the structure but also enumerative properties belong to matroid theory. Matroid theory was introduced by Hassler Whitney and studied as a part of order theory. It is now an independent field of study with a number of connections with other parts of combinatorics.
Extremal combinatorics studies extremal questions on set systems. The types of questions addressed in this case are about the largest possible graph which satisfies certain properties. For example, the largest triangle-free graph on 2n vertices is a complete bipartite graph Kn,n. Often it is too hard even to find the extremal answer f(n) exactly and one can only give an asymptotic estimate.
Ramsey theory is another part of extremal combinatorics. It states that any sufficiently large configuration will contain some sort of order. It is an advanced generalization of the pigeonhole principle.
In probabilistic combinatorics, the questions are of the following type: what is the probability of a certain property for a random discrete object, such as a random graph? For instance, what is the average number of triangles in a random graph? Probabilistic methods are also used to determine the existence of combinatorial objects with certain prescribed properties (for which explicit examples might be difficult to find), simply by observing that the probability of randomly selecting an object with those properties is greater than 0. This approach (often referred to as the probabilistic method) proved highly effective in applications to extremal combinatorics and graph theory. A closely related area is the study of finite Markov chains, especially on combinatorial objects. Here again probabilistic tools are used to estimate the mixing time.
Often associated with Paul Erdős, who did the pioneering work on the subject, probabilistic combinatorics was traditionally viewed as a set of tools to study problems in other parts of combinatorics. However, with the growth of applications to analysis of algorithms in computer science, as well as classical probability, additive and probabilistic number theory, the area recently grew to become an independent field of combinatorics.
Algebraic combinatorics is an area of mathematics that employs methods of abstract algebra, notably group theory and representation theory, in various combinatorial contexts and, conversely, applies combinatorial techniques to problems in algebra. Algebraic combinatorics is continuously expanding its scope, in both topics and techniques, and can be seen as the area of mathematics where the interaction of combinatorial and algebraic methods is particularly strong and significant.
Combinatorics on words deals with formal languages. It arose independently within several branches of mathematics, including number theory, group theory and probability. It has applications to enumerative combinatorics, fractal analysis, theoretical computer science, automata theory and linguistics. While many applications are new, the classical Chomsky–Schützenberger hierarchy of classes of formal grammars is perhaps the best-known result in the field.
Geometric combinatorics is related to convex and discrete geometry, in particular polyhedral combinatorics. It asks, for example, how many faces of each dimension a convex polytope can have. Metric properties of polytopes play an important role as well, e.g. the Cauchy theorem on the rigidity of convex polytopes. Special polytopes are also considered, such as permutohedra, associahedra and Birkhoff polytopes. We should note that combinatorial geometry is an old fashioned name for discrete geometry.
Combinatorial analogs of concepts and methods in topology are used to study graph coloring, fair division, partitions, partially ordered sets, decision trees, necklace problems and discrete Morse theory. It should not be confused with combinatorial topology which is an older name for algebraic topology.
Arithmetic combinatorics arose out of the interplay between number theory, combinatorics, ergodic theory and harmonic analysis. It is about combinatorial estimates associated with arithmetic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). Additive number theory (sometimes also called additive combinatorics) refers to the special case when only the operations of addition and subtraction are involved. One important technique in arithmetic combinatorics is the ergodic theory of dynamical systems.
Infinitary combinatorics, or combinatorial set theory, is an extension of ideas in combinatorics to infinite sets. It is a part of set theory, an area of mathematical logic, but uses tools and ideas from both set theory and extremal combinatorics.
Combinatorial optimization is the study of optimization on discrete and combinatorial objects. It started as a part of combinatorics and graph theory, but is now viewed as a branch of applied mathematics and computer science, related to operations research, algorithm theory and computational complexity theory.
Coding theory started as a part of design theory with early combinatorial constructions of error-correcting codes. The main idea of the subject is to design efficient and reliable methods of data transmission. It is now a large field of study, part of information theory.
Discrete geometry (also called combinatorial geometry) also began as a part of combinatorics, with early results on convex polytopes and kissing numbers. With the emergence of applications of discrete geometry to computational geometry, these two fields partially merged and became a separate field of study. There remain many connections with geometric and topological combinatorics, which themselves can be viewed as outgrowths of the early discrete geometry.
There are increasing interactions between combinatorics and physics, particularly statistical physics. Examples include an exact solution of the Ising model, and a connection between the Potts model on one hand, and the chromatic and Tutte polynomials on the other hand.
... combinatorial theory has been the mother of several of the more active branches of today's mathematics, which have become independent ... . The typical ... case of this is algebraic topology (formerly known as combinatorial topology)
In my opinion, combinatorics is now growing out of this early stage.
Algebraic combinatorics is an area of mathematics that employs methods of abstract algebra, notably group theory and representation theory, in various combinatorial contexts and, conversely, applies combinatorial techniques to problems in algebra.Arithmetic combinatorics
In mathematics, arithmetic combinatorics is a field in the intersection of number theory, combinatorics, ergodic theory and harmonic analysis.Catalan number
In combinatorial mathematics, the Catalan numbers form a sequence of natural numbers that occur in various counting problems, often involving recursively-defined objects. They are named after the Belgian mathematician Eugène Charles Catalan (1814–1894).
The nth Catalan number is given directly in terms of binomial coefficients by
The first Catalan numbers for n = 0, 1, 2, 3, ... are
In mathematics, a combination is a selection of items from a collection, such that (unlike permutations) the order of selection does not matter. For example, given three fruits, say an apple, an orange and a pear, there are three combinations of two that can be drawn from this set: an apple and a pear; an apple and an orange; or a pear and an orange. More formally, a k-combination of a set S is a subset of k distinct elements of S. If the set has n elements, the number of k-combinations is equal to the binomial coefficient
which can be written using factorials as whenever , and which is zero when . The set of all k-combinations of a set S is often denoted by .
Combinations refer to the combination of n things taken k at a time without repetition. To refer to combinations in which repetition is allowed, the terms k-selection, k-multiset, or k-combination with repetition are often used. If, in the above example, it were possible to have two of any one kind of fruit there would be 3 more 2-selections: one with two apples, one with two oranges, and one with two pears.
Although the set of three fruits was small enough to write a complete list of combinations, with large sets this becomes impractical. For example, a poker hand can be described as a 5-combination (k = 5) of cards from a 52 card deck (n = 52). The 5 cards of the hand are all distinct, and the order of cards in the hand does not matter. There are 2,598,960 such combinations, and the chance of drawing any one hand at random is 1 / 2,598,960.Discrete Mathematics (journal)
Discrete Mathematics is a biweekly peer-reviewed scientific journal in the broad area of discrete mathematics, combinatorics, graph theory, and their applications. It was established in 1971 and is published by North-Holland Publishing Company. It publishes both short notes, full length contributions, as well as survey articles. In addition, the journal publishes a number of special issues each year dedicated to a particular topic. Although originally it published articles in French and German, it now allows only English language articles. The editor-in-chief is Douglas West (University of Illinois, Urbana).Discrete mathematics
Discrete mathematics is the study of mathematical structures that are fundamentally discrete rather than continuous. In contrast to real numbers that have the property of varying "smoothly", the objects studied in discrete mathematics – such as integers, graphs, and statements in logic – do not vary smoothly in this way, but have distinct, separated values. Discrete mathematics therefore excludes topics in "continuous mathematics" such as calculus or Euclidean geometry. Discrete objects can often be enumerated by integers. More formally, discrete mathematics has been characterized as the branch of mathematics dealing with countable sets (finite sets or sets with the same cardinality as the natural numbers). However, there is no exact definition of the term "discrete mathematics." Indeed, discrete mathematics is described less by what is included than by what is excluded: continuously varying quantities and related notions.
The set of objects studied in discrete mathematics can be finite or infinite. The term finite mathematics is sometimes applied to parts of the field of discrete mathematics that deals with finite sets, particularly those areas relevant to business.
Research in discrete mathematics increased in the latter half of the twentieth century partly due to the development of digital computers which operate in discrete steps and store data in discrete bits. Concepts and notations from discrete mathematics are useful in studying and describing objects and problems in branches of computer science, such as computer algorithms, programming languages, cryptography, automated theorem proving, and software development. Conversely, computer implementations are significant in applying ideas from discrete mathematics to real-world problems, such as in operations research.
Although the main objects of study in discrete mathematics are discrete objects, analytic methods from continuous mathematics are often employed as well.
In university curricula, "Discrete Mathematics" appeared in the 1980s, initially as a computer science support course; its contents were somewhat haphazard at the time. The curriculum has thereafter developed in conjunction with efforts by ACM and MAA into a course that is basically intended to develop mathematical maturity in freshmen; therefore it is nowadays a prerequisite for mathematics majors in some universities as well. Some high-school-level discrete mathematics textbooks have appeared as well. At this level, discrete mathematics is sometimes seen as a preparatory course, not unlike precalculus in this respect.The Fulkerson Prize is awarded for outstanding papers in discrete mathematics.Electronic Journal of Combinatorics
The Electronic Journal of Combinatorics is a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal covering research in combinatorial mathematics.
The journal was established in 1994 by Herbert Wilf (University of Pennsylvania) and Neil Calkin (Georgia Institute of Technology).According to the Journal Citation Reports, the journal had a 2017 impact factor of 0.762.Enumeration
An enumeration is a complete, ordered listing of all the items in a collection. The term is commonly used in mathematics and computer science to refer to a listing of all of the elements of a set. The precise requirements for an enumeration (for example, whether the set must be finite, or whether the list is allowed to contain repetitions) depend on the discipline of study and the context of a given problem.
Some sets can be enumerated by means of a natural ordering (such as 1, 2, 3, 4, ... for the set of positive integers), but in other cases it may be necessary to impose a (perhaps arbitrary) ordering. In some contexts, such as enumerative combinatorics, the term enumeration is used more in the sense of counting – with emphasis on determination of the number of elements that a set contains, rather than the production of an explicit listing of those elements.Enumerative combinatorics
Enumerative combinatorics is an area of combinatorics that deals with the number of ways that certain patterns can be formed. Two examples of this type of problem are counting combinations and counting permutations. More generally, given an infinite collection of finite sets Si indexed by the natural numbers, enumerative combinatorics seeks to describe a counting function which counts the number of objects in Sn for each n. Although counting the number of elements in a set is a rather broad mathematical problem, many of the problems that arise in applications have a relatively simple combinatorial description. The twelvefold way provides a unified framework for counting permutations, combinations and partitions.
The simplest such functions are closed formulas, which can be expressed as a composition of elementary functions such as factorials, powers, and so on. For instance, as shown below, the number of different possible orderings of a deck of n cards is f(n) = n!. The problem of finding a closed formula is known as algebraic enumeration, and frequently involves deriving a recurrence relation or generating function and using this to arrive at the desired closed form.
Often, a complicated closed formula yields little insight into the behavior of the counting function as the number of counted objects grows. In these cases, a simple asymptotic approximation may be preferable. A function is an asymptotic approximation to if as . In this case, we writeEuropean Journal of Combinatorics
The European Journal of Combinatorics is a peer-reviewed scientific journal for combinatorics. It is an international, bimonthly journal of discrete mathematics, specializing in theories arising from combinatorial problems. The journal is primarily open to papers dealing with mathematical structures within combinatorics and/or establishing direct links between combinatorics and the theories of computing. The journal includes full-length research papers, short notes, and research problems on several topics.
This journal has been founded by Michel Deza, Michel Las Vergnas and Pierre Rosenstiehl.
The current editors-in-chief are Patrice Ossona de Mendez and Pierre Rosenstiehl.
The impact factor for the European Journal of Combinatorics in 2012 was 0.658.Facet (geometry)
In geometry, a facet is a feature of a polyhedron, polytope, or related geometric structure, generally of dimension one less than the structure itself.
In three-dimensional geometry a facet of a polyhedron is any polygon whose corners are vertices of the polyhedron, and is not a face. To facet a polyhedron is to find and join such facets to form the faces of a new polyhedron; this is the reciprocal process to stellation and may also be applied to higher-dimensional polytopes.
In polyhedral combinatorics and in the general theory of polytopes, a facet of a polytope of dimension n is a face that has dimension n − 1. Facets may also be called (n − 1)-faces. In three-dimensional geometry, they are often called "faces" without qualification.
A facet of a simplicial complex is a maximal simplex, that is a simplex that is not a face of another simplex of the complex. For (boundary complexes of) simplicial polytopes this coincides with the meaning from polyhedral combinatorics.History of combinatorics
The mathematical field of combinatorics was studied to varying degrees in numerous ancient societies. Its study in Europe dates to the work of Leonardo Fibonacci in the 13th century AD, which introduced Arabian and Indian ideas to the continent. It has continued to be studied in the modern era.Motzkin number
In mathematics, a Motzkin number for a given number n is the number of different ways of drawing non-intersecting chords between n points on a circle (not necessarily touching every point by a chord). The Motzkin numbers are named after Theodore Motzkin and have diverse applications in geometry, combinatorics and number theory.
The Motzkin numbers for form the sequence:
Combinatorics is a branch of mathematics concerning the study of finite or countable discrete structures.Partition (number theory)
In number theory and combinatorics, a partition of a positive integer n, also called an integer partition, is a way of writing n as a sum of positive integers. Two sums that differ only in the order of their summands are considered the same partition. (If order matters, the sum becomes a composition.) For example, 4 can be partitioned in five distinct ways:
3 + 1
2 + 2
2 + 1 + 1
1 + 1 + 1 + 1The order-dependent composition 1 + 3 is the same partition as 3 + 1, while the two distinct compositions 1 + 2 + 1 and 1 + 1 + 2 represent the same partition 2 + 1 + 1.
A summand in a partition is also called a part. The number of partitions of n is given by the partition function p(n). So p(4) = 5. The notation λ ⊢ n means that λ is a partition of n.
Partitions can be graphically visualized with Young diagrams or Ferrers diagrams. They occur in a number of branches of mathematics and physics, including the study of symmetric polynomials, the symmetric group and in group representation theory in general.Percolation
In physics, chemistry and materials science, percolation (from Latin percōlāre, "to filter" or "trickle through") refers to the movement and filtering of fluids through porous materials.Polyhedral combinatorics
Polyhedral combinatorics is a branch of mathematics, within combinatorics and discrete geometry, that studies the problems of counting and describing the faces of convex polyhedra and higher-dimensional convex polytopes.
Research in polyhedral combinatorics falls into two distinct areas. Mathematicians in this area study the combinatorics of polytopes; for instance, they seek inequalities that describe the relations between the numbers of vertices, edges, and faces of higher dimensions in arbitrary polytopes or in certain important subclasses of polytopes, and study other combinatorial properties of polytopes such as their connectivity and diameter (number of steps needed to reach any vertex from any other vertex). Additionally, many computer scientists use the phrase “polyhedral combinatorics” to describe research into precise descriptions of the faces of certain specific polytopes (especially 0-1 polytopes, whose vertices are subsets of a hypercube) arising from integer programming problems.Transformation (function)
In mathematics, particularly in semigroup theory, a transformation is a function f that maps a set X to itself, i.e. f : X → X. In other areas of mathematics, a transformation may simply be any function, regardless of domain and codomain. This wider sense shall not be considered in this article; refer instead to the article on function for that sense.
Examples include linear transformations and affine transformations, rotations, reflections and translations. These can be carried out in Euclidean space, particularly in R2 (two dimensions) and R3 (three dimensions). They are also operations that can be performed using linear algebra, and described explicitly using matrices.