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Revision Notes on Set theory and Real Number System

Reference: Fundamental Methods of Mathematical Economics, A.C. Chiang.

A set is a collection of any distinct objects that we can imagine. Distinct means an object appears
only once inside a set. A set is denoted using braces (second brackets) which signify that the ordering
inside the set is insignificant. E.g. { x 1 , x 2 , x 3 } = { x 3, x 1 , x 2 } i.e. they are the same set. Here,

x 1 , x 2 , x 3 are the elements of the set. Let us name this set:

mathematics we may write,

A . Then, using the language of

x 1 A , x 2 A , x 3 A , where is read as belongs to or is an

element of. If there are no elements in a set then we write { } which represents an empty set or
null set.
Let us suppose that Q is the set of chapters from our textbook by Alpha C. Chiang that will appear in
Exam 1, then Q = {Ch. 2, Ch. 3}. Here, the universal set U can be the set of all chapters in the
textbook. Hence,

= {Ch. 1, Ch. 2, Ch. 3, ... , Ch. 20}. Where, means so on and so forth

in the obvious fashion. The Universal Set contains all the elements that are relevant in a particular
situation. Here, we are concerned with the chapters in the text-book. So we may say all the chapters
are the elements of the universal set. When we have more than two sets we may think about the
relation between them. We can see that all the elements of Q are there in U, if this is the case then we
say Q is a subset of U, which may be translated into maths as Q

U. The null or empty set is

a subset of every set. A set containing n number of elements has 2 n number of subsets. E.g. Q has 22
= 4 subsets and they are { }, {Ch.2}, {Ch.3}, {Ch.2. Ch.3}. If B represents the set of all the students
in our class then Q and B are disjoint since there are no common elements in the two sets.
The sets that we have written so far have been written using the method of enumeration (listing the
elements of the set).
Another technique of writing a set is by description. E.g. it may be difficult to list all the students in
our class inside a set. So we may simply write, B = {x | x is a student from our class}. We may read
the mathematical statement as B contains the elements x such that x is a student from our class. This
set contains all the students in our class (in the abstract world of maths).
Now we look at some operations that may be performed if we have more than one set.
We can combine two sets and this is called the union (symbol :)

of two sets. For example, if

Z ={xx is an integer } = {,-3,-2,-1,0,1,2,3,} i.e. Z is the set of all integers (all positive
and negative whole numbers and zero), and
fractions e.g.

1 1
2 4

etc. Then,


F={ x|x is a fraction } i.e.

F is the set of ALL

gives us (a new set) the set of all integers and fractions

i.e. the set of all rational numbers (those numbers that can be represented as the ratio of two integers
i.e. ALL integers and fractions). And combining (unionising) the set of ALL rational and irrational

numbers (those numbers which cannot be expressed as the ratio of two integers, e.g.

gives us

the set of ALL real numbers. The key point to note here is that the new set we obtain from the
union of two sets will contain only those elements that belong to either or both the sets. Using a
simpler example, given,

A={1,2,3 } and B={3,4,5 } then,

We can also take the intersection ()

A B={ 1,2,3,4,5 } .

of the two sets which gives us a new set containing only

those elements that are common to both the sets. Using our last example,

A B={ 3 } .

The complement of a given set is a new set that contains only those elements that are not in the
given set but are in the universal set , e.g. complement of the set (Q) that contained all the chapters
included in Exam 1 gives us a new set

' ~
Q =Q= { ch .1, ch . 4, ch .5, , ch . 20 } . Using description

we may write

Q' ={ x|x is a chapter' textboo k ' that will not appear Mid 1 }={ x|x Ux Q } .
The last operation on sets, we shall consider, is that of the multiplication of two sets (aka direct
product or cartesian product). When we multiply two sets we get a new set containing ordered pairs

(x , y ) . The first variable ' x '

' y'

of the pair must be from the first set and the second variable

must be from the second set. E.g. given,

A={1,2} and B={3,4,5 } then,

{( 1,3 ) , ( 1,4 ) , ( 1,5 ) , ( 2,3 ) , ( 2,4 ) , ( 2,5 ) }

We have already seen an application of set theory where we used it to derive the set of all real
numbers. If we represent the set of all real numbers on a straight horizontal line then we get the real
line (x axis) and if we take another vertical real line (y axis) which intersects the horizontal real line at
0 then we may obtain the rectangular (Cartesian) coordinate plane, which is used to perform
graphical analysis of the relationship between two variables in almost every field of study
Some useful ideas related to the rectangular coordinate plane:
If you see a line or curve (drawn in the rectangular plane) that is upward sloping (e.g. the red
line/supply curve in the figure below) then this means the variables on the x and y axis are directly or
positively related (as one variable increases, other variable increases. As one decreases, other
decreases). In the figure below, as the price increases (as you move right along the horizontal axis),
the quantity supplied increases as well. The Law of Supply.
A downward sloping curve or line indicates that the variables are inversely or negatively related (as
one increase, the other decreases). Hence the demand curve in the figure below is downward sloping,
since price and quantity demanded is inversely relatedas price increases the quantity demanded
decreases. The Law of Demand.

Source: www.faculty.washington.edu/danby/bls324/surplus.html