Morphism-oriented definitions - Mathematics Educators Stack Exchange most recent 30 from matheducators.stackexchange.com 2019-09-19T17:58:56Z https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/feeds/question/319 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/rdf https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/q/319 4 Morphism-oriented definitions dtldarek https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/users/42 2014-03-17T02:29:08Z 2014-03-17T03:03:06Z <p>For some objects there are alternate definitions, which are "morphism-oriented". To give some examples, there are two definitions of a prime number:</p> <ul> <li>$p$ is prime if it is greater than $1$ and has no positive divisors other than $1$ and itself,</li> <li>$p$ is prime if for any $a$ and $b$ we have $p \mid ab \implies p \mid a \lor p \mid b$.</li> </ul> <p>Also, there are two definitions of the Cartesian product:</p> <ul> <li>the product $A \times B$ is the set of ordered pairs $\langle a,b\rangle$ such that $a \in A$ and $b \in B$,</li> <li>the product $A \times B$ is any set $P$ such that there exists functions $\pi_A : P \to A$ and $\pi_B : P \to B$ such that for any set $Q$ and functions $f_A : Q \to A$ and $f_B : Q \to B$ there exists a unique function $f : Q \to P$ such that $f_A = \pi_A \circ f$ and $f_B = \pi_B \circ f$.</li> </ul> <p>The second definitions are those which I call "morphism-oriented". At first those might be harder to understand, but they capture some essential properties which aren't so apparent with the simpler definition.</p> <p>The main question is: <strong>what is your experience using them (if you did)?</strong></p> <p>Some support questions might be as follows:</p> <ul> <li>What are their advantages or disadvantages?</li> <li>Are there any examples where such definitions shine or perform very badly?</li> <li>Are such definitions suitable for younger students (i.e. pre-college).</li> </ul> https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/questions/319/-/323#323 6 Answer by Thomas for Morphism-oriented definitions Thomas https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/users/53 2014-03-17T02:55:52Z 2014-03-17T03:03:06Z <p>Your second definition for the Cartesian product is the definition of a product of objects in a category (as I am sure that you are aware). So the question basically (as I am hearing it) becomes: </p> <blockquote> <p>Is teaching category theory useful and when can you start introducing it?</p> </blockquote> <p>I think category theory is extremely helpful for a mathematics student who is trying to make sense of definitions across various areas of mathematics. The language of category theory is very helpful because it (IMO) provides a nice general approach to various definitions/ In category theory we have general definitions of products of objects and this in the category of sets becomes the usual Cartesian product. You can then show how your definition one is a way to concretely define a product in that category. But this also extends well to, for example, the product of topological spaces.</p> <p>When can you start introducing this? Some mathematicians (my self included) wish that they had been introduced to category theory earlier than they were. </p> <p>But, it is hard to get a grasp on categories without looking at examples. And so the student should probably be familiar with basic concepts like: sets, groups, rings, vector spaces, topological spaces. I think it becomes hard to provide examples without a good background in various topics.</p> <p>In conclusion I would probably stick with defining the Cartesian product the first way you did it. But this, again, depends on the level of your students.</p> <p>I think something similar can be said about the definition of a prime number. Here again the second definition is helpful to when trying to understand why prime numbers are so important. And it can be an eye opener when you see this when talking about integral domains. </p> <p>So I don't think that these "morphism definitions" would be good in a pre-college setting simply because they require much to get at examples. They are great at getting a better understand of "what is really going on", but they are just not very accessible. But as an exercise in abstraction, I would think that you could get something good out of it. </p> <p>I think another example of this is the question of whether or not you could introduce group theory in high school. I think you can, but again it isn't easy because it is hard to give good examples. But then again, I think that since high school students do have some familiarity with rational numbers, real numbers, and some even complex numbers, it might just work out.</p>