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SET / NUMBER THEORY ( A Brief Review)


At the end of this session, students should be able to:

 Use set-builder notation

 Define the following sets of numbers:

o Natural numbers

o Whole numbers

o Integers

o Rational numbers

o Irrational numbers

o Real numbers

o Complex numbers

A SET may be defined as a collection of well- defined items or objects. These items are referred
to as ELEMENTS or MEMBERS of the set.  is used to denote ‘ is an element / member of…’.
An EMPTY or NULL SET contains no elements. The null set is denoted by Ø.

A set is FINITE if the number of elements can be counted and INFINITE if there is no end to the
counting. If A represents a particular set then n(A) is used to represent the number of elements in
the set A.

A set is usually described in two main ways:

 By LISTING the elements within curly braces; for example, A    2, 2 .

 SET-BUILDER NOTATION; for example, A   x : x 2  4 . In this case, the members of

the set must satisfy the condition x 2  4 .

A SUBSET is a smaller set within a larger one in which all elements share a common property
that is not shared by those outside the smaller set.  is used to denote ‘ is a proper subset of…’.
If the set A is a subset within a larger set, called the UNIVERSAL set, then the COMPLEMENT
of the set A is defined as the elements of the universal set which are not in A. This may be
represented, using set –builder notation, as follows:

A '   x : x  A, x  U  OR A '   x  U : x  A

The INTERSECTION of two sets A and B is the set of elements common to both A and B.

This may be represented as follows:

A  B   x : x  A  x  B

The UNION of two sets A and B is the set of elements in either or both A as well as B.

This may be represented as follows:

A  B   x : x  A  x  B

The difference of two sets is defined as:

A  B   x : x  A  x  B

This is equivalent to A  B ' .

The set of REAL NUMBERS consists of the set of rational numbers together with the irrational
numbers. A real number is basically any number that has a decimal representation ( terminating
or not).

The real numbers have the following popular subsets:


For example 1, 2, 3, … . They are the numbers that we were taught to count with at an
early stage. They are sometimes referred to as the positive integers.


These include the natural numbers and zero; that is 0, 1, 2, …


These are negative and positive natural numbers and zero.


A rational number is any number that can be represented as a fraction   , where b is
not zero and a and b are integers. a is called the numerator and b is called the
denominator. The decimal representation is repeating or terminating.


These numbers can be represented as non-repeating and non-terminating decimal

numbers. Examples include 3,  .

Real numbers may be represented by points along a line called a REAL NUMBER LINE.

Real numbers have the property that they can be ordered; so given any two real numbers, a and
b, one of the following conditions must hold: a  b, a  b, a  b .

ab a is greater than or equal to b
ab a is less than or equal to b
ab a is greater than b
ab a is less than b
ab a is equal to b
ab a is not equal to b

/ Is used for negation

There is another set of numbers called COMPLEX NUMBERS which does not possess the
ordering property. A complex number is comprised of two parts: real and imaginary. A complex
number cannot be represented on a real number line. An ARGAND diagram is used for complex
number representation.

A complex number has the format a  jb ; where a and b are real numbers and j 2  1 .

Complex numbers will be covered in Engineering Mathematics 2 (MAT 1033) so we will not go
into it any further here.


State TRUE or FALSE:

1) 4   3, 4, 5

2)  7, 3, 5   7, 3, 5

3) All natural numbers are rational.

4) All integers are natural numbers.

5) All real numbers are irrational numbers.

List the elements of the following sets:

6)  x : x  4  7

7)  x : 2 x  5  8

8) x : x 2


Hint: If the universal set is not stated assume that it is the largest possible set of real numbers.

[Solution: 1) T 2)T 3)T 4)F 5) F 6) {11} 7) {6.5} 8) { -3, 3}]

T-A Russell ( 14 / 08 / 2010).