# Construction of real numbers

Real numbers can be constructed from

rational numbers in various ways:

If we have a space where Cauchy sequences are meaningful (such as a

metric space, i.e., a space where distance is defined, or more generally a

uniform space), a standard procedure to force all Cauchy sequences to converge is adding new points to the space (a process called

completion).
By starting with rational numbers and the metric

*d*(

*x*,

*y*) = |

*x* -

*y*|, we can construct the real numbers, as will be detailed below.
(If we started with a different metric on the rationals, we'd end up with the

*p*-adic numbers instead.)

Let *R* be the set of Cauchy sequences of rational numbers.
Cauchy sequences (*x*_{n}) and (*y*_{n}) can be added, multiplied and compared as follows:

- (
*x*_{n}) + (*y*_{n}) = (*x*_{n} + *y*_{n})
- (
*x*_{n}) × (*y*_{n}) = (*x*_{n} × *y*_{n})
- (
*x*_{n}) ≥ (*y*_{n}) if and only if for every ε > 0, there exists an integer *N* such that *x*_{n} ≥ *y*_{n} - ε for all *n* > *N*.

Two Cauchy sequences are called

*equivalent* if the sequence (

*x*_{n} -

*y*_{n}) has limit 0.
This does indeed define an

equivalence relation, it is

compatible with the operations defined above, and the set

**R** of all equivalence classes can be shown to satisfy all the axioms of the real numbers given above.
We can embed the rational numbers into the reals by identifying the rational number

*r* with the sequence (

*r*,

*r*,

*r*,...).

A practical and concrete representative for an equivalence class representing a real number is provided by the representation to base *b* -- in practice, *b* is usually 2 (binary), 8 (octal), 10 (decimal) or 16 (hexadecimal).
For example, the number π = 3.14159... corresponds to the Cauchy sequence (3,3.1,3.14,3.141,3.1415,...).
Notice that the sequence (0,0.9,0.99,0.999,0.9999,...) is equivalent to the sequence (1,1.0,1.00,1.000,1.0000,...); this shows that 0.9999... = 1.

A Dedekind cut in an ordered field is a partition of it, (

*A*,

*B*), such that

*A* is nonempty and closed downwards,

*B* is nonempty and closed upwards, and

*A* has no maximum. Real numbers can be constructed as Dedekind cuts of rational numbers.

We can take the infinite decimal expansion to be the definition of a real number, considering expansions like 0.9999... and 1.0000... to be equivalent, and define the arithmetical operations formally.

As in the hyperreal numbers, we construct

^{*}**Q** from the rational numbers using an ultrafilter. We take then the

ring of all elements in

^{*}**Q** whose absolute value is less than some nonzero

natural number (it doesn't matter which). This ring has a unique

maximal ideal, the

infinitesimal numbers.

Factoring a ring by a maximal ideal gives a

field, in this case the field of reals. It turns out that the maximal ideal respects the order on

^{*}**Q**, so the field we get is an ordered field. Completeness can be proven in a similar way to the construction from the Cauchy sequences.

Every ordered field can be embedded in the surreal numbers. The real numbers form the largest subfield that is Archimedean (meaning that no real number is infinitely large).