Category Archives: Teaching

Reading list for Functional Analysis

I have been asked on YouTube about the reading list for my old module G14FUN Functional Analysis. It looks like that is not included in the materials available on UNoW at so what I’ll do is I’ll quote the reading list here. To be precise, this is my current reading list for the module Further Topics in Analysis, but the syllabus is very similar. (The main difference is that Further Topics in Analysis includes some material on measure theory, and a slight reduction in the functional analysis content).


The following books are all well worth looking at. Although no single book is ideal for the module, the book of Allan is probably the closest for the material on functional analysis (although the more advanced material in that book goes well beyond the scope of this module). Indeed, I first learned most of the material in this module from the lectures of Allan (on which his book is based). The books by Jameson and Bollobás and Rudin’s book on Real and Complex Analysis are also highly recommended.  In particular, the early chapters of the latter book are a very good source for the material on measure theory in this module.

  • Allan, Graham R. (Prepared for publication by H. Garth Dales). Introduction to Banach Spaces and Algebras. Oxford Graduate Texts in Mathematics, 2011.
  • Bollobás, Béla. Linear analysis : an introductory course / Béla Bollobás, 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • Halmos, Paul R. Finite-dimensional vector spaces / Paul R. Halmos, 2nd ed. Springer, 1987.
  • Jameson, G. J. O. Topology and normed spaces / G. J. O. Jameson. Chapman and Hall, 1974.
  • Pedersen, Gert K. Analysis now / Gert K. Pedersen. Springer, 1989.
  • Rudin, Walter. Functional analysis / Walter Rudin, 2nd ed. McGraw-Hill, 1991.
  • Rudin, Walter. Real and complex analysis / Walter Rudin, 3rd ed. McGraw-Hill, 1987.
  • Simmons, George Finlay. Introduction to topology and modern analysis / George Finlay Simmons. Krieger, 2003.



Notation for composite functions

From seeing my children’s school work, it looks as if GCSE maths in the UK uses what looks to me to be confusing notation for composite functions. Essentially they write fg where I would write f \circ g. For an example, see the BBC web page

To be precise, they write things like fg(4)=f(g(4)).

Surely this can cause confusion with the pointwise product function fg given by x \mapsto f(x) g(x)?

I suppose that f \circ g might look weird and frightening?

Another name for powers of 2?

I sometimes run a session for school children (typically aged 10-12) about the grains of rice on a chessboard, and the Tower of Hanoi puzzle. Here powers of two are relevant, but I wanted a child-friendly name for these numbers, so I have been calling them “doubling numbers”.  At the end of the session I have provided a sheet with the first 65 doubling numbers (starting from 1). But I’m no longer entirely happy with calling them “doubling numbers”.

I don’t want to call them powers of two unless I have to. But “numbers you get by starting from 1 and doubling again and again” is a bit unwieldy.

Maybe I will stick to “powers of two” in the end.

Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity

This year’s Festival of Science and Curiosity runs from 13-20 February 2019.

The University of Nottingham’s School of Mathematical Sciences is contributing various activities on Saturday 16th February.

I’ll be involved in the activities at Green’s Windmill and Science Centre. We will have a variety of mathematical games, puzzles and exhibits, including Rubik’s Cubes, Towers of Hanoi, and gyroscopes balancing on strings.

Separately, at a stall in Broadmarsh Shopping Centre, there will be a group of PhD students from our MASS group (Modelling and Analytics for a Sustainable Society). They have some activities and games relating to mathematical research concerning sustainability and antimicrobial resistance.

Why do we need a property called surjectivity?

Here is a question I am often asked by my first-year students. Why do we need a name for the condition of surjectivity, when you can always change the codomain to be equal to the image, and make your function surjective that way? (I am avoiding the word ‘range’, because that turns out to be used differently by different authors.)

I don’t know currently what the best answer to this is, though I have some ideas.

I could refer to mathematical tradition, and talk about the flexibility of the standard approach. For example, I think it is quite useful that we have a large set of functions from \mathbb{R} to \mathbb{R} given by polynomial functions with real coefficients, and it would be inconvenient if we couldn’t say where these functions were mapping to without calculating the image. Off the top of my head, consider, for example, a polynomial function x \mapsto x^6-3x^3 +x^2 defined on \mathbb{R}. What is its image? Do we really want to have to calculate the image before we can say what the codomain is? It seems relatively easy just to treat it as a function from \mathbb{R} to \mathbb{R} that isn’t surjective.

I suppose though that we could just say that it is a function from \mathbb{R} to its image. Is there any problem with that? Well maybe it gets a bit complicated later when you start looking at homomorphisms in algebra, but you can probably work round that.

I expect that a category theorist would have something to say on this issue! But what is the best thing to say to a first-year undergraduate?

My open educational resources

As well as my videos on YouTube and iTunes, some of my previous University of Nottingham modules are available in full (including handouts etc.) on U-Now. Apparently these modules are now also available on OER commons.



Moebius strips

Yesterday was a first-year class where I briefly looked at the quotient mapping associated with an equivalence relation, and then showed the class a cylinder and a Moebius strip. That gave me the chance to ask them “Why did the chicken cross the Moebius strip?” Someone always gives me the “correct” answer, as long as I am patient and encouraging!