Is it possible to do mathematicsWITHOUTbackground knowledge?... Is it humanly possible to do mathematics on own without research or is the information content too much to discover identities, or methods of proofs on one's own?... But, how to get started then? How to discover mathematics on my own?

## Math research without background knowledge

In my (not so well-formed) opinion, mathematical research ability consists of:

Initiative to ask new questions, and good questions, charting one's own direction**Direction.**Foundational skills in commonly-used techniques (e.g.*Technique.***Mathematical Rigor**, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, any other routine skill - even Programming)The ability to recognize which tools can be applied to attack a problem, view a problem from different angles, as well as persevere through difficult problems.**Problem-solving Skill.**in math research*Past experience*

Of the three criteria above, only (2) directly depends on background knowledge. I argue that some research can be done using only skills (1) and (3). However, they are not completely independent of background knowledge, which places a limit to how much can be done. (4) is an issue of honing all (1)-(3) to muscle memory, so I won't discuss that.

(1): Asking good questions depends to some extent on a wide background - if you know a lot of what already has been done, you can form an "instinct" as to what approach would most likely work. Ramanujan — a first-rate mathematical genius — had a

*crazy*amount of instinct. Of course, besides instinct, it would help to avoid dead ends that others have pointed out. The interconnectivity of Mathematics also frequently allows insights from one field to apply fruitfully in another - such as the application of Elliptic Curves to Fermat's Last Theorem.

(3): Seeing how others attack problems allows one to learn crucial proof techniques, such as Diagonalization in Set Theory or Problem Reduction in Computational Complexity. In addition, there is a limit to how much problem-solving experience one can have if one does not have many tools (2) to begin with, and one can't view a problem from many angles if one doesn't have many angles (2) to begin with.

So, my conclusion for "

**Can research be done without background knowledge?**" is:

It is possible to do some research in a certain field provided that one is somewhat familiar with the techniques of that field, and one is also armed with some skill in (1) and (3). However, the scope of the research will be severely limited without a wide background knowledge, especially with regards to the literature review in that field. It will be especially difficult to doanythingoutside that field.

## How do I start?

If I may draw out an example from my own limited experience, I began playing with ideas shortly after I was exposed to matrices; I loved it so much that I simply tried to represent everything as matrices and find analogues for matrix operations (now i know this is "finding homomorphisms").

When I learned complex numbers, I represented them as scaled rotation matrices, and that representation proved rather fruitful (a previous blog post has full details). Eventually I moved on to a homomorphism from complex matrices to real matrices, at which point I realized I had reinvented a wheel.

Play around with ideas, derive interesting things and train (1) and (3), but never stop learning new skills and background knowledge! That way, the moment your (2) shapes up, your (1) and (3) are fully ready to gun down problems with the new ammunition. Meanwhile, you can supplement (2) withStack Exchange.

*original*research in an established field is virtually impossible without rising to the edge of what is already known in the field (that's what Ph.D.'s are for). Basically,

What is easy and interesting has usually been done before.

Happy research, and I hope this helps!