Skip to main content
\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)
Mathematics LibreTexts

1.1: About These Notes

These notes are based on the philosophy that you learn the most about a subject when you are figuring it out directly for yourself, and learn the least when you are trying to figure out what someone else is saying about it. On the other hand, there is a subject called combinatorial mathematics, and that is what we are going to be studying, so we will have to tell you some basic facts. What we are going to try to do is to give you a chance to discover many of the interesting examples that usually appear as textbook examples and discover the principles that appear as textbook theorems. Your main activity will be solving problems designed to lead you to discover the basic principles of combinatorial mathematics. Some of the problems lead you through a new idea, some give you a chance to describe what you have learned in a sequence of problems, and some are quite challenging. When you find a problem challenging, don’t give up on it, but don’t let it stop you from going on with other problems. Frequently you will find an idea in a later problem that you can take back to the one you skipped over or only partly finished in order to finish it off. With that in mind, let’s get started. In the problems that follow, you will see some problems marked on the left with various symbols. The preface gives a full explanation of these symbols and discusses in greater detail why the book is organized as it is! Table 1.1, which is repeated from the preface, summarizes the meaning of the symbols.

Table 1.1: The meaning of the symbols to the left of problem numbers.
\(\bullet\) essential
\(\circ\) motivational material
+ summary
\(\mathbf\rightarrow\) especially interesting
* difficult
\(\cdot\) essential for this or the next section