What is abstract algebra in a nutshell?

Abstract Algebra in a Nutshell

Abstract Algebra in a Nutshell

Are you someone who has recently been introduced to the concept of abstract algebra or someone who wants to learn more about it? This article is for you! Roughly speaking, abstract algebra is the study of what happens when certain properties of number systems are abstracted out. The various structures studied in abstract algebra are at the core of many mathematical fields such as number theory, theoretical physics, coding theory, and cryptography.

Abstract Algebra

What is Abstract Algebra?

Abstract Algebra is a branch of mathematics that deals with the study of abstract structures with their operations. It is called “abstract” because it deals with algebraic structures that can be defined in terms of abstract properties like closure, associativity, and distributivity.

It is different from elementary algebra which deals with arithmetic operations on real or complex numbers. In abstract algebra, these operations are abstracted out and the emphasis is on the properties and relationships that arise from these operations. This abstraction allows for the study of different mathematical systems that do not necessarily conform to the properties of numbers such as groups, rings, fields, and modules.

Operations in Abstract Algebra

What are the structures studied in Abstract Algebra?

There are several structures studied in Abstract Algebra, including:

  • Groups: A group is a set of elements that is closed under a binary operation, has an identity element, and every element has an inverse.
  • Rings: Rings are sets of elements that have two operations, usually called addition and multiplication, and are closed under those operations. Unlike groups, rings do not have to satisfy an inverse property.
  • Fields: Fields are sets of elements that have two operations, usually called addition and multiplication, have an inverse, and are closed under those operations.
  • Modules: A module is a generalization of a vector space where the scalar multiplication is done over a ring instead of a field.
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Abstract Algebraic structures

What are some applications of Abstract Algebra?

Abstract Algebra has many real-world applications, including:

  • Cryptography: Abstract algebra concepts such as modular arithmetic, groups and fields are used in encryption and decryption algorithms.
  • Theoretical Physics: The study of symmetries, groups and Lie Algebras is important in the development of theoretical physics.
  • Coding Theory: Error correcting codes and cryptography are important applications of abstract algebraic structures.

Applications of Abstract Algebra

What are the prerequisites for studying Abstract Algebra?

The prerequisites for studying Abstract Algebra are:

  • Mathematical Proof: Abstract algebra is a proof-based subject, so a solid foundation in mathematical proofs is critical.
  • Linear Algebra: Linear Algebra is another subject that is essential for the study of Abstract Algebra, as many of the concepts studied in Abstract Algebra can be seen as generalizations of concepts in Linear Algebra.
  • Number Theory: A basic understanding of Number Theory is also helpful as many concepts that arise in Abstract Algebra are related to Number Theory, such as primes, gcds and modular arithmetic.


Abstract Algebra is an integral part of modern mathematics that has been responsible for great advances in many scientific fields. It is a subject that requires a solid understanding of mathematical proofs, linear algebra, and number theory. By studying the abstract structures and concepts of algebra, mathematicians have been able to model and solve real-world problems in a wide range of applications.

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