Structure Many mathematical objects, such as sets of numbers and functions, exhibit internal structure as a consequence of operations or relations that are defined on the set. Mathematics then studies properties of those sets that can be expressed in terms of that structure; for instance number theory studies properties of the set of integers that can be expressed in terms of arithmetic operations. Moreover, it frequently happens that different such structured sets (or structures) exhibit similar properties, which makes it possible, by a further step of abstraction, to state axioms for a class of structures, and then study at once the whole class of structures satisfying these axioms. Thus one can study groups, rings, fields and other abstract systems; together such studies (for structures defined by algebraic operations) constitute the domain of abstract algebra. By its great generality, abstract algebra can often be applied to seemingly unrelated problems; for instance a number of ancient problems concerning compass and straightedge constructions were finally solved using Galois theory, which involves field theory and group theory. Another example of an algebraic theory is linear algebra, which is the general study of vector spaces, whose elements called vectors have both quantity and direction, and can be used to model (relations between) points in space. This is one example of the phenomenon that the originally unrelated areas of geometry and algebra have very strong interactions in modern mathematics. Combinatorics studies ways of enumerating the number of objects that fit a given structure.
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