Boolean differential calculus

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A branch of mathematics dealing with the concepts of differentials and derivatives of Boolean functions (cf. Boolean function) and the manner of using these in the study of such functions.

Boolean differential calculus originated from the treatment of electrical engineering problems in the areas of error-correcting codes (cf. Error-correcting code) and of design and testing of switching circuits; development into a self-contained mathematical theory was achieved in 1959 [a1], [a2], and continued in the time thereafter [a3], [a4], [a5], [a6]. Boolean differential calculus has also found other engineering applications: e.g., it can be used as a unifying framework for the modeling and investigation of finite automata (cf. Automaton, finite) and of discrete event dynamical systems [a7] (cf. also Discrete event system), i.e., dynamical systems with discrete states and changes of states called events; such systems arise e.g. in digital network communication protocols.

Many concepts in Boolean differential calculus are in analogy to those of classical differential calculus for real-valued functions of one or more real variables; such are, e.g., the concept of a differential, describing the change of the value of a function and variables, and the concept of a derivative, describing how the value of a function depends on changes of its argument(s).

The simplest and (with regard to applications) most important case is based on the two-element Boolean algebra with carrier set , on Boolean or binary variables , and on vectors of variables in a Boolean space . A Boolean function is a mapping , and a set of functions can be represented as a mapping .

A Boolean equation of the general form can always be written in homogeneous form , with , and a set of simultaneous equations can always be combined into one single equation . Here and below, denotes addition modulo , or the operation of exclusive or, and the symbols , and stand for disjunction, conjunction and negation, respectively.


Suppose and . The (Boolean) derivative of a Boolean function with respect to the variable is the function given by

or, equivalently,

It has the value if and only if a change in changes the value of .

The maximum and the minimum of the function with respect to the variable is defined as:

Suppose and . The derivative of a Boolean function with respect to the variables in is the function ,

Maxima and minima of a function with respect to more than one of its variables are defined accordingly.


The variable defined by

is called the differential of the variable , and describes changes in . Likewise, the vector

is called the differential of the vector , and describes the changes that occur in the components of when changes to some other value ; here, denotes component-wise exclusive-or. In , is a point, and is the direction from to . The (total) differential of a Boolean function is given by

the partial differential of a Boolean function with respect to is given by

and the th partial differential of with respect to is given by

Other useful operators include the various differential minima and maxima that can be derived from the various differentials of functions by replacing "" with "" or "+" .

Boolean differential equations , as well as Boolean equations, can be solved and investigated with the aid of differential operators. Numerical tools may operate on the solution sets of equations rather than on the equations themselves. A compact representation of solution sets uses -, -, and "do-not-care" -elements in ternary-valued tables.


[a1] S.B. Akers, "On a theory of Boolean functions" SIAM J. , 7 (1959) pp. 487–498
[a2] A.D. Talantsev, "On the analysis and synthesis of certain electrical circuits by means of special logical operators" Avtomat. i Telemeh. , 20 (1959) pp. 898–907 (In Russian)
[a3] A. Thayse, "Boolean differential calculus" Philips Res. Rep. , 26 (1971) pp. 229–246
[a4] D. Bochmann, "Boolean differential calculus (a survey)" Engin. Cybernet. , 15 : 5 (1977) pp. 67–75
[a5] D. Bochmann, C. Posthoff, "Binäre dynamische Systeme" , R. Oldenbourg (1981)
[a6] A. Thayse, "Boolean calculus of differences" , Lecture Notes in Computer Science , 101 , Springer (1981)
[a7] R. Scheuring, H. Wehlan, "On the design of discrete event dynamic systems by means of the Boolean differential calculus" D. Franke (ed.) F. Kraus (ed.) , Design Methods of Control Systems , 2 , Pergamon (1991) pp. 723–728
How to Cite This Entry:
Boolean differential calculus. H. Wehlan (originator), Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This text originally appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098