**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 By the early twentieth century, it had been superseded by "number theory".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

### Famous quotes containing the words number and/or theory:

“After mature deliberation of counsel, the good Queen to establish a rule and imitable example unto all posterity, for the moderation and required modesty in a lawful marriage, ordained the *number* of six times a day as a lawful, necessary and competent limit.”

—Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)

“It is not enough for *theory* to describe and analyse, it must itself be an event in the universe it describes. In order to do this *theory* must partake of and become the acceleration of this logic. It must tear itself from all referents and take pride only in the future. *Theory* must operate on time at the cost of a deliberate distortion of present reality.”

—Jean Baudrillard (b. 1929)