**Number theory** (or **arithmetic**) is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers. Number theorists study prime numbers as well as the properties of objects made out of integers (e.g., rational numbers) or defined as generalizations of the integers (e.g., algebraic integers).

Integers can be considered either in themselves or as solutions to equations (diophantine geometry). Questions in number theory are often best understood through the study of analytical objects (e.g., the Riemann zeta function) that encode properties of the integers, primes or other number-theoretic objects in some fashion (analytic number theory). One may also study real numbers in relation to rational numbers, e.g., as approximated by the latter (diophantine approximation).

The older term for number theory is *arithmetic*. By the early twentieth century, it had been superseded by "number theory". (The word "arithmetic" is used by the general public to mean "elementary calculations"; it has also acquired other meanings in mathematical logic, as in *Peano arithmetic*, and computer science, as in *floating point arithmetic*.) The use of the term *arithmetic* for *number theory* regained some ground in the second half of the 20th century, arguably in part due to French influence. In particular, *arithmetical* is preferred as an adjective to *number-theoretic*.

Read more about Number Theory: Recent Approaches and Subfields, Applications, Literature

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“It makes no sense to say what the objects of a *theory* are,

beyond saying how to interpret or reinterpret that *theory* in another.”

—Willard Van Orman Quine (b. 1908)

“I heartily wish you, in the plain home-spun style, a great *number* of happy new years, well employed in forming both your mind and your manners, to be useful and agreeable to yourself, your country, and your friends.”

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