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  • Combinatorics is a branch of mathematics concerning the study of finite or countable discrete structures. Aspects of combinatorics include counting the structures of a given kind and size, deciding when certain criteria can be met, and constructing and analyzing objects meeting the criteria, finding "largest", "smallest", or "optimal" objects, and studying combinatorial structures arising in an algebraic context, or applying algebraic techniques to combinatorial problems. Combinatorial problems arise in many areas of pure mathematics, notably in algebra, probability theory, topology, and geometry, and combinatorics also has many applications in mathematical optimization, computer science, ergodic theory and statistical physics. Many combinatorial questions have historically been considered in isolation, giving an ad hoc solution to a problem arising in some mathematical context. In the later twentieth century, however, powerful and general theoretical methods were developed, making combinatorics into an independent branch of mathematics in its own right.

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