In mathematics, a relation is used to describe certain properties of things. That way, certain things may be connected in some way; this is called a relation. It is clear, that things are either related, or they are not, there are no in-betweens.

Formally, a relation is a set of n-tuples of equal degree. Thus a binary relation is a set of pairs, a ternary relation a set of 3-tuples, and so forth. A ternary relation however is always expressable as two binary relations. Specifically in the context of functions, this is known as currying.

Particularly concerning binary relations, the set of all the starting point is called the domain and the sets of the ending points is the range. The domain is the x's , and the range is the y's.

An example for such a relation might be a function. Functions associate keys with values. The set of all functions is a subset of the set of all relations - a function is a relation where the first value of every tuple is unique through the set.

Other well-known relations are the Equivalence relation and the Order relation. That way, sets of things can be ordered: Take the first element of a set, it is either equal to the element looked for, or there is an order relation that can be used to classify it. That way, the whole set can be classified (compared to some arbitrarily chosen element).

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A function, in a mathematical sense, expresses the idea that one quantity (the argument of the function, also known as the input) completely determines another quantity (the value, or the output). A function assigns exactly one value to each input of a specified type. The argument and the value may be real numbers, but they can also be elements from any given sets: the domain and the codomain of the function. An example of a function with the real numbers as both its domain and codomain is the function f(x) = 2x, which assigns to every real number the real number with twice its value. In this case, it is written that f(5) = 10.

In addition to elementary functions on numbers, functions include maps between algebraic structures like groups and maps between geometric objects like manifolds. In the abstract set-theoretic approach, a function is a relation between the domain and the codomain that associates each element in the domain with exactly one element in the codomain. An example of a function with domain {A,B,C} and codomain {1,2,3} associates A with 1, B with 2, and C with 3.

There are many ways to describe or represent functions: by a formula, by an algorithm that computes it, by a plot or a graph. A table of values is a common way to specify a function in statistics, physics, chemistry, and other sciences. A function may also be described through its relationship to other functions, for example, as the inverse function or a solution of a differential equation. There are uncountably many different functions from the set of natural numbers to itself, most of which cannot be expressed with a formula or an algorithm. Functions with numerical outputs may be added and multiplied, yielding new functions. Collections of functions with certain properties, such as continuous functions and differentiable functions, usually required to be closed under certain operations, are called function spaces and are studied as objects in their own right, in such disciplines as real analysis and complex analysis. An important operation on functions, which distinguishes them from numbers, is the composition of functions.


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