Math 113: Abstract Algebra

University of California, Berkeley. Spring 2016.

MWF 3:10-4:00 PM in Room 9, Evans Hall.


Martin Helmer
Email: martin.helmer at
Office: 966 Evans
Office Hours: Mondays 1-3 PM or by appointment

GSI Office Hours:

There is also a GSI for all the Math 113 sections. The GSI will hold drop-in office hours on a regular basis for you to go and get help on problems or answers to general questions about the material. The GSI for Math 113 is George Melvin.

GSI Office Hour Location: 732 Evans Hall
GSI Office Hour Times:


Abstract Algebra: Theory and Applications by Judson (2015 Edition)

The text book is open source (and hence free in pdf form, using the link above). Information about purchasing a hardcover (for a quite reasonable price) can be found here: Hard Cover Info. For those purchasing a hard cover note that we will be following the 2015 edition in class, which does differ in some ways from the 2014 edition.

Course Goals:

The goal of this course is to introduce the study of abstract algebra and for students to gain an understanding and appreciation of the elegance, utility and mathematical importance of several algebraic structures; specifically groups, rings and fields. It is hoped through the course of the class that students will come to see how these algebraic structures allow us to see common structure and behaviour between diverse sets such as the integers, polynomials, matrices, etc.

A group is a set with a binary operation satisfying certain axioms. Examples of groups include the integers with the operation of addition and square invertible matrices with the operation of matrix multiplication (and many others). A ring is, roughly speaking, a group with an additional operation, this can be thought of as having an operation analogous to addition and an operation analogous to multiplication. Examples include the integers, and polynomials. A field can be thought of as a ring with additional properties, roughly speaking a field has inverses to elements under the operation analogous to multiplication. Examples of fields include the real numbers, the complex numbers and the rationals.

By studying the abstract properties of these objects we will gain an understanding of a wide variety of mathematical objects and will illustrate the importance and utility of thinking about mathematics in terms of both abstract structure and concrete examples. This course will also give students the opportunity to acquire more familiarity with abstract mathematical reasoning and proofs in general, which will be important for future mathematical courses.

Course Schedule and Notes:

We will cover three general algebraic structures in this course, these are: groups, rings and fields.

Introduction Groups Rings Fields Exam Review


Note that only the questions marked "Hand in" should be handed in, those marked "Practice Problems" are not to be handed in, but may be helpful preparation for quizzes and exams. Of the "Hand in" questions 2-3 will be marked (most weeks).

Algebra Software:

Macaulay2 (M2 for short) and Sage are both excellent open source computer algebra systems with some very helpful functions for algebra, algebraic geometry and number theory (among other things).

Bonus Assignment using Macaulay2 or Sage

Quiz Dates and Solutions:

Homework Policy:

Homework will be due once a week (most weeks) usually on Wednesdays at the beginning of class, as a rule late homework will not be accepted. Homework should be handed in on paper in class (this is simpler for the grader). If you are not able to attend class on a given day alternate submission arrangements are possible (such as via email); assignments may also be slid under my office door. Paper submission is preferred, however if you do submit by email please submit .pdf files only (scans are fine). Homework due dates will be posted on this website along with the assignments. Homework assignments will be posted above at least a week before they are due. Each problem set will have a few problems (usually 5-6) that will be handed in, of these 2-3 will be graded. There will also be a longer list of practice problems. The material on the practice problems will be covered on quizzes and exams.

Some things to keep in mind when doing your homework:

  1. You are encouraged to discuss problems with your classmates and are free to consult online resources. Working together on math problems can be an excellent way to learn and the internet is a useful resource. However your final written solutions you hand in must be your own work written in your own words, that is your final solutions must be written by yourself without consulting someone else's solution.
  2. All solutions should be written in complete, grammatically correct, English (or at least a very close approximation of this) with mathematical symbols and equations interspersed as appropriate. These solutions should carefully explain the logic of your approach.
  3. All proofs must be complete and detailed for full marks. Avoid the use of phrases such as 'it is easy to see' or 'the rest is straightforward', you will likely be docked marks. Proofs in your homework should be clear and explicit and should be more detailed than textbook proofs.
  4. If the grader is unable to make out your writing then this may hurt your mark.


Your grades will be broken down as follows:

There will be two in class midterms worth 15% each. There will be approximately 4-5 quizzes, with your lowest two quiz marks not counting toward your grade. The quizzes will be short (~15 minutes) and will be done at the end of class. Additionally your one lowest homework assignment mark will not count toward your final grade.

Exam Dates: