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Numbers: → → →

Purpose of

of Section Starting with the non negative integers, we construct, in

order, the integers, rational numbers and the real numbers, using equivalence

relations.

Introduction

understanding of the “continuum”. People have tried to understand space,

time, motion, and the concept of the continuum for thousands of years. This

quest led the Pythagoreans to the discovery of irrational numbers, Zeno’s

paradoxes, infinitesimal calculus, Cantor’s set theory, and other intriguing

ideas.

the model of the three basic physical measurements of length, mass, and time.

However, quantum physicists tell us that in the tiny world of quantum physics,

we cannot admit the possibility of continuous observations; namely that all

observations must take place at discrete, isolated instances. In mathematics,

we can observe continuously, at least in our heads. For instance, take a

continuum, say from 0 to 1, and calling a variable x , we can imagine

continuous quantities like x 2 or sin x . However, a physicist might argue, if a

mathematician were to peer closer and closer into the continuum, strange

things may be observed, just as it does in the physical world. It is the purpose

of this and the next section to ask ourselves, just what are real numbers, and

find out what happens when we look at them ... up close.

The path from the natural numbers 1,2,3,… to the real numbers was a

journey that took several thousands years. The natural (or counting) numbers

probably arose from counting; counting goats, sheep, or whatever possessions

early humans possessed. Fractions, or rational numbers, are simply a

refinement of counting finer units, like 1/2 bushel of wheat, 1/3 of a mile, and

were well-known numbers to Greek geometers. Although Greek

mathematicians routinely used rational1 numbers, they did not accept zero2, or

negative numbers as legitimate numbers. To them, numbers represented

something and 0 and negative numbers didn’t represent something. Believe it

or not, Columbus discovered America before mathematicians discovered

negative numbers, or maybe we should say accepted them as numbers to

1

The word rational is the adjective form of ratio.

22

The first occurrence of a symbol used to represent 0 goes back to Hindu writings in India in the

9th century.

Section 5.1 453 Construction of the Reals

mathematicians as Cardano in Italy, and Viete in France called negative

numbers “absurd” and “fictitious.” But gradually, mathematicians realized the

need to enlarge their thinking and address paradoxes like 2 − 5 , or the solution

of equations like x + 3 = 1 so negative numbers finally were brought into the

family of numbers. But the last step in evolution of real numbers from natural

numbers took considerably more thought. One of the great mathematical

achievements of the 19th century, was the understanding of what we call the

“real numbers”: those numbers which can be expressed in decimal notation,

whether the decimal digits stop, go on forever in a repeating pattern, or go on

in a pattern that never repeats. So now we arrive at this foundation of real

analysis, the real numbers. So what are they?

There are two basic ways to define the real numbers. First, we can play

God and bring the “laws” down from the mountaintop, so to speak, where we

lay down the rules of the game and say, Here they are, these are the real

numbers.” This approach would be called the synthetic approach, whereby we

list a series of axioms, which we feel are the embodiment of what we think a

“continuum” should be. On the other hand, we can “construct” the real

numbers, much like a carpenter does in building a house. In this approach, we

begin with a foundation of the simplest numbers, like the natural numbers

1, 2,3,... , then doing some “mathematical construction” one builds the real

numbers step by step, passing through the integers and rational numbers on

the way to the reals. It is this “construction” approach we carry out in this

section. The synthetic axiomatic approach will be carried out in the next

section.

mathematical objects, the non negative integers 1,2,3,….

Section 5.1 454 Construction of the Reals

= {1, 2,3,...}

= { p / q : p, q ∈ , q ≠ 0}

So how does one “construct” the integers 0, ±1, ±2,... from the natural

numbers 1, 2,3,... ? The idea is define integers as pairs of nonnegative

integers, where we “think” of each pair ( m, n ) as representing the difference

m − n , and thus a pair like ( 2,5 ) would represent −3 . If we then define

addition, subtraction, and multiplication of the pairs ( m, n ) in a way that is

consistent with the arithmetic of the nonnegative integers, we have

successfully defined the integers in terms of the nonnegative integers. To

carry out this program, we start with the set

× = {( m, n ) : m, n = 1, 2,...}

dots in Figure 1

Section 5.1 455 Construction of the Reals

Figure 1

It is an easy matter to show this relation is an equivalence relation on × ,

and thus partitions × into equivalence classes, each equivalence class

being the grid points on a straight line of the form n = m + k , k = 0, ±1, ±2,... .

See Figure 1. A few equivalences classes are listed in Table 1, along with

their designated representative ( ). Each equivalence class corresponds to

an integer. For example, the equivalence class ( 0, 0 ) denotes zero, and (1, 2 )

would be −1 and so on.

(1,3) = {(1,3) , ( 2, 4 ) , ( 3,5)…} −2

(1, 2 ) = {(1, 2 ) , ( 2,3) , ( 3, 4 )…} −1

(1,1) = {(1,1) , ( 2, 2) , ( 3, 3)…} 0

3

The idea behind the equivalence relation is that ( m, n ) ≡ ( m′, n′) if and only if m − n = m′ − n ′

except we are not allowed to use negative numbers as of now. Hence, we get by this and say the

equivalent statement ( m, n ) ≡ ( m′, n′) if and only if m + n ′ = m′ + n

Section 5.1 456 Construction of the Reals

Table 1

{

= ... (1, 4 ), (1, 3), (1, 2 ) , (1,1), ( 2,1), ( 3,1), ( 4,1) ,... }

= {... − 3, −2, −1, 0,1, 2,3,...}

or in general

( k ,1) = k (positive integers)

(1,1) = 0 (zero)

(1, k ) = −k (negative integers)

integers in a manner consistent with the arithmetic of the natural numbers.

We define for p, q, r, s ∈ :

Addition: ( p, r ) ⊕ ( q, s ) = ( p + q, r + s )

Subtraction: ( p, q ) ( r , s ) = ( p + s, q + r )

Multiplication ( p, q ) ⊗ ( r , s ) = ( pr + qs, ps + qr )

Multiplication:

For example

Subtraction: ( 3, 6 ) ( 2, 7 ) = (10,8 ) or +2

Multiplication (1,3) ⊗ ( 7, 2 ) = (13, 23)

Multiplication: or − 10

______________________________________

rational numbers , which we do by defining them in terms of pairs ( m, n ) of

integers . For example, we associate the fraction 2/3 with any pair ( m, n ) of

integers that satisfy 2n = 3m . Typical values for 2/3 would be

( 2, 3) , ( 4, 6) , ( −6, −9) , ( 20,30 ) ,... which we would likely choose 2 / 3 = ( 2, 3) as the

Section 5.1 457 Construction of the Reals

× ( − {0} ) defined by

For example

which we would associate with the fraction 1/2. The equivalence classes can

be illustrated graphically as grid points on straight lines passing through the

origin as illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Section 5.1 458 Construction of the Reals

1

(1, 2 ) = {(1, 2 ) , ( 2, 4 ) , ( 3, 6 )…}

2

(1, −1) = {(1, −1) , ( 2, −2) , ( 3, −3)…} −1

3

( 3, −5) = {( 3, −5) , ( −3, 5) , ( 6, −10 )…} −

5

( 0,1) = {( 0,1)( 0, 2 ) , ( 0,3)…} 0

Five Equivalence Classes in × ( − {0} )

Table 1

p

= ( p, q ) , p , q ∈ , q ≠ 0 .

q

to carry out arithmetic on them, like adding and subtracting.

Addition: ( p, q ) ⊕ ( r , s ) = ( ps + qr , qs )

Subtraction: ( p, q ) ( r , s ) = ( ps − qr , qs ) ps ≥ rq

Multiplication: ( p, q ) ⊗ ( r , s ) = ( pr , qs )

For example

14 7

Addition: (1, 2 ) ⊕ ( 2,10 ) = (14, 20 ) =or

20 10

6 1

Subtraction: ( 3, 6 ) (1, 4 ) = ( 6, 24 ) or =

24 4

3 1

Multiplication ( 3, 6 ) ⊗ (1, 4 ) = ( 3, 24 ) or

Multiplication: =

24 8

_______________________________________________________

Construction of Reals: →

There are different ways to define the real numbers and each has its

advantages and disadvantages. It is well known (See Problem 1) that for

decimal representations of rational numbers, there will always be repeating

blocks of digits. For example 1/3 = 0.333333… repeats in blocks of 1,

Section 5.1 459 Construction of the Reals

(often written 0.318 ) has repeating blocks of 2, starting at the second digit. In

fact, repeating decimal digits defines the rational numbers4. If a decimal

5

expansion does not repeat, the number is not rational , which we call

irrational, like 2 = 1.414213... The net result is that the real numbers can be

defined as all positive and negative decimal expansions, with repeating and

nonrepeating digits, one group called rational numbers, the other irrational.

expansions doesn’t relate to points on a continuum. To relate real numbers to

a continuum, there are two basic approaches, one due to Cantor and the other

by his good friend and supporter, Richard Dedekind. Cantor’s approach

defines the real numbers as “limits” of sequences of rational numbers, like

But this approach, while having an intuitive appeal, leads us into the study of

sequences, convergence, null sequences, and other ideas from real analysis

we have not introduced, hence we follow the approach of Dedekind.

was one of the greatest mathematicians of the 19th century, as well as one of

the greatest contributors to number theory and abstract algebra. His invention

of ideals in ring theory and his contributions to algebraic numbers, fields,

modules, lattice, etc were crucial in the development of modern algebra. . In

188 his book ‘Was sind and was sollen die Zahlen?’ (What are numbers and

what should they be?) laid the foundation for the real number system and was a

milestone in the history of mathematics. His definition of the real numbers by

Dedekind cuts, and his formulation of the Dedekind-Peano axioms were

important for the early development of set theory.

the ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide them, even totally order them,

they have the undesirable property that they contain gaps, say at 2 and π

and other points (in fact an uncountable infinite number of points). The idea is

to “fill in” those gaps, getting a new system of numbers (real numbers) which

can be placed in a one-to-one correspondence with points on a continuous

line.

4

In order that decimal expansions be unique, one agrees to represent all non-terminating blocks of

9s, like 0.2399999… by 0.2400000… .

5

The word rational is the adjective form of the word “ratio.”

Section 5.1 460 Construction of the Reals

Dedekind’s idea appeals to our intuitive grasp of the rational numbers all

aligned on a line. Dedekind’s basic idea was to partition the rational numbers

into two (disjoint) sets L, U where every rational number x in the lower set

L is less than every rational number U of the upper set U . That is

L ∪ U = , L ∩ U = ∅, x ∈ L ∧ y ∈ U ⇒ x < y

cut But

even though there are an infinite number of ways to make this “cut,” Dedekind

made the seminal observation there are only three distinct types:

1. (max, no min) The lower set L has a largest member x * ∈ L but the upper

set U has no smallest member. An example of such a cut would be when

L consists of all rational numbers less than or equal to 1, and U all

rational numbers strictly greater than 1.

2. (min, no max) The upper set U has a smallest member y * ∈U but the

lower set L has no largest member. An example of such a cut would be

when L consists of all rational numbers strictly less than 1 , and U all

rational numbers greater than or equal to 1.

3. (no max, no min) The lower set L has no largest member and the upper

set U has no smallest member. An example of such a cut would be when

L consists of all rational numbers less than or equal to 0 and positive

rational numbers r satisfying r 2 < 2 while the upper set U consists of all

positive rational numbers r satisfying 2 < r 2 . (The reader can think

r < 2, 2 < r but we are not allowed to talk about irrational numbers 2

at this stage).

Figure 3

Section 5.1 461 Construction of the Reals

At this point we make the observation that it is impossible for the lower set to

have a maximum x * and the upper set to have a minimum y * since then the

average (x *

)

+ y * / 2 , which lies between x * and y * would be larger than the

largest member of L and smaller than y * the smallest member of U , which of

course violates how the Dedekind cut is made.

Numbers): In the two cases when the lower set has a

maximum element r or the upper set has a smallest element r , we assign such

cuts to the number r = ( Lr ,U r ) . Dedekind cuts of this type occur when r is a

rational number and in this way we have a correspondence between the rational

numbers and Dedekind cuts of this type.

Case 2 (Irrational Numbers): In case neither the lower set has a maximum or

the upper set has a minimum, Dedekind simply calls such cuts an irrational

number α = ( Lα ,U α ) .

numbers denoted by , is

Dedekind’s Definition of the Real Numbers: The real numbers,

the collection of all Dedekind cuts ( L, U ) on the rational numbers, with each

real number being associated with a specific Dedekind cut. If the lower set L

has a largest rational number r , or if the upper set U has a smallest rational

number r , we associate such cuts with the rational number r = ( Lr ,U r ) . If the

upper set U does not have a minimum rational number and the upper has has

no minimum rational number, we associate such cuts with an irrational number,

say α = ( Lα ,U ∂ ) .

Our task is not yet complete. We must define the many properties we

desire of the real numbers, like how to add, subtract, multiply and divide as

well as well as how they are ordered such as a < b, a ≤ b, a > b, a ≥ b .

Associating real numbers a, b to their Dedekind cuts

a = ( La , U a ) , b = ( Lb , U b )

the following arithmetic operations and order relation. The idea is to

construct the lower Dedekind set from two lower Dedekind cut sets (we could

Section 5.1 462 Construction of the Reals

just as well construct the upper Dedekind set) and then “associate” with the

arithmetic operation the (real) number where the cut occurs.

Operation6 Example

a + b ∼ La +b = { x + y : x ∈ La , y ∈ Lb } 2 + 3 = { x + y : x ∈ L2 , y ∈ L3 } = {rational numbers < 5} or 5

a − b ∼ La −b = { x − y : x ∈ La , y ∈ U b } 3 − 2 = { x − y : x ∈ L3 , y ∈U 2 } = {rational numbers < 1} or 1

a, b > 0 ⇒ ab ∼ Lab = { xy : x ∈ La , y ∈ Lb } 2 ⋅ 3 = { xy : x ∈ L2 , y ∈ L3 } = {rational numbers < 6} or 6

a ≤ b ⇔ La ⊆ Lb 2 ≤ 3 ⇔ L2 ⊆ L3

Geometry: Dedekind cuts (i.e. real numbers), are based

on the fundamental property of the Euclidean line that “if all points on a line fall

into one of two classes, such that every point in the first class lies to the left of

every point in the second class, then there is one and only one point that

produces this division. It was this obvious geometric property of a line that

inspired Dedekind’s arithmetic formulation of continuity. It might be said that

Dedekind separated arithmetic from geometry in the process by creating a

purely arithmetic description of the Euclidean line.

6

The values of x, y in the following definitions are taken as rational numbers.

Section 5.1 463 Construction of the Reals

Problems:

Problems: Section 5.1, Construction

Construction of the Real Numbers

Ans: reflexive:

reflexive ( m, n ) ≡ ( m, n ) since m + n = m + n . Hence ≡ is reflexive.

symmetric If ( m, n ) ≡ ( m′, n′ ) ⇔ m + n′ = m′ + n ⇔ ( m′, n′ ) ≡ ( m, n )

symmetric:

transitive: Let ( m, n ) ≡ ( m′, n′) and ( m′, n′ ) ≡ ( m′′, n′′ ) . Hence

m + n′ = m′ + n, m′ + n′′ = m′′ + n′ . Adding these two equations and subtracting the

common factors we get m + n′′ = m′′ + n which says ( m, n ) ≡ ( m′′, n′′ ) . Hence, the

relation is transitive.

between pair

s of integers ( m, n ) and ( m′, n′ ) is an equivalence relation.

Ans: reflexive:

reflexive ( m, n ) ≡ ( m, n ) since mn = mn . Hence ≡ is reflexive.

symmetric If ( m, n ) ≡ ( m′, n′ ) ⇔ mn′ = m′n ⇔ ( m′, n′ ) ≡ ( m, n )

symmetric:

transitive: Let ( m, n ) ≡ ( m′, n′) and ( m′, n′ ) ≡ ( m′′, n′′ ) . Hence

mn′ = m′n, m′n′′ = m′′n′ . Multiplying these equations and canceling the common

factor m′n′ we get mn′m′n′′ = m′nm′′n′ ⇒ mn′′ = m′′n . Hence ( m, n ) ≡ ( m′′, n′′ ) and so

the relation is transitive.

of natural numbers pair ( m, n ) . When we see ( 3, 5 ) we think “-2”, when we see

( 6, 3) we think “3” and so on. Perform the following arithmetic steps on pairs of

natural numbers.

b) (1, 5) ( 3, 2) Ans: (1, 5) ( 3, 2) = ( 3,8) or − 5

Section 5.1 464 Construction of the Reals

equivalence classes of pairs of integers ( m, n ) . When we see ( 3, 5 ) we think

“3/5”, when we see ( 6, 3 ) we think “6/3 = 2” and so on. Perform the following

arithmetic steps on pairs of integers.

17

a) (1,5) ⊕ ( 3, 2 ) Ans: (1, 5) ⊕ ( 3, 2 ) = (17,10 ) or

10

1

b) (1, 2 ) ( 3, 2) Ans: (1, 2 ) ( 4, 9 ) = (1,18) or 18

3

c) (1, 5) ⊗ ( 3, 2 ) Ans: (1, 5) ⊗ ( 3, 2 ) = ( 3,10) or 10

7. (Decimal to Fractions) Find the fraction for each of the following numbers

in decimal form.

a) 0.9999…. ( 0.9 )

Ans:

9 9 9

= + + +

10 100 1000

9 1 1

= 1 + + +

10 10 100

9 1

=

10 1 − (1 / 10 )

9 10

=

10 9

=1

b) 0.23232323…. ( 0.23)

Ans:

Section 5.1 465 Construction of the Reals

23 23

= + +

100 10000

23 1 1

= 1+ + +

100 100 10000

23 1

=

100 1 − (1 / 100 )

23 100

=

100 99

23

=

99

c) 0.0123123123… ( 0.0123)

Ans:

125 ∞

∑

k

0.0125125 =

1000 k =0

( 0.001)

125 1

=

1000 1 − 0.001

125

=

9990

d) 0.001111… ( 0.001)

Ans:

1 1 1

0.0011111 = 1+ + +

1000 10 100

1 1

=

1000 1 − (1 / 10 )

1 10

=

1000 9

1

=

900

Section 5.1 466 Construction of the Reals

d1d 2 ...d k

0. 000000

dd ...d k d1d 2 ...d k =

1 2

999...999 ...0

n zeros k repeats k repeats

000

k nines n zeros

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