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Online course materials for MATH63021

Set Theory

Unit code: MATH63021
Credit Rating: 15
Unit level: Level 6
Teaching period(s): Semester 1
Offered by School of Mathematics
Available as a free choice unit?: N



Additional Requirements

Students are not permitted to take MATH43021 and MATH63021 for credit in an undergraduate programme and then a postgraduate programme.


To introduce students to axiomatic set theory and its role in mathematics.



The study of abstract set theory was started by Georg Cantor who, whilst studying trigonometric series, came up against problems involving iterative processes which could be applied more than a finite number of times. Out of this work came the revolutionary idea of transfinite numbers, which could be used to compare the sizes of infinite sets. A naive approach to set theory leads to paradox and it was left to Zermelo to propose an axiomatic approach that puts set theory on a sound rigorous basis.

We will study Zermelo-Fraenkel axioms for set theory, and redo some of the material from the Mathematical Logic course in this formal setting.  We will also look at the role of the Axiom of Choice, in both set theory and other parts of the mathematics.

We will then see how set theory interacts with some other areas of mathematics (particularly analysis and general topology).




Learning outcomes

On completion of this course students will be familiar with the axioms of ZFC, be able to formalise properties of ordinals and cardinals in this setting and be able to distinguish those arguments that need the Axiom of Choice.

Assessment methods

  • Other - 15%
  • Written exam - 85%

Assessment Further Information

  • One coursework assignment; weighting 15% each,
  • End of semester examination: two and a half hours; weighting 85%


  1. Paradoxes and axioms [4]
  2. Well-orderings, ordinals and transfinite induction [6]
  3. The size of sets [4]
  4. The axiom of choice [4]
  5. Cardinal arithmetic [4]
  6. Subsets of Euclidean space [5]

Recommended reading

There is no recommended textbook for this course but the following text books cover much of the material.

  1. H.B. Enderton, elements of Set Theory, Academic Press.
  2. K. Ciesielski, Set Theory for the Working Mathematician, London Mathematical Society Student Texts.
  3. K. Hrbacek, T. Jech, Introduction to Set Theory, CHapman & Hall/CRC Pure and Applied Mathematics.
  4. Y.N. Moschovakis, Notes on Set Theory, Springer-Verlag Undergraduate Texts in Mathematics.

Feedback methods

Feedback tutorials will provide an opportunity for students' work to be discussed and provide feedback on their understanding.  Coursework also provides an opportunity for students to receive feedback.  Students can also get feedback on their understanding directly from the lecturer, for example during the lecturer's office hour.

Study hours

  • Lectures - 27 hours
  • Tutorials - 6 hours
  • Independent study hours - 117 hours

Teaching staff

Gareth Jones - Unit coordinator

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