Sign up ×
MathOverflow is a question and answer site for professional mathematicians. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Next term I am supposed to teach a course on representation of finite groups. This is a third year course for undegrads. I was thinking to use the book of Grodon James and Martin Liebeck "Representations and characters of groups", but also looking for other references.

The question is: could you advise some other books (or lecture notes)? Maybe you had a nice experience of teaching or listening to a course with a similar title? It would be really nice if this book (notes) has also exercises.

ADDED. I would like to thank everybody who answered the question, very helpful answers!!! The answer of John Mangual below contains a "universal" reference. For the moment my favourites are Serre (very clear and short introduction of main ideas), some bits from notes of Teleman and Martin, and Etingof for beautiful exposition. My last problem is to have enough of exercises, in particular to write down a good exam. So I would like to ask if there are some additional references for exercises (with or without solutions)?

share|cite|improve this question
Since you are planning a course in representation theory could you share if you found a reference/notes which shows a lot of actual examples of computing roots and weights and Dynkin diagrams? <Apart from Fulton and Harris's book> –  Anirbit Dec 27 '09 at 19:28
Anirbit, this is not planned in my course :)), this is too advanced. Have you seen below the reference to the page of Khovanov that John Mangual gave? This seem to contain everything you can imagine! –  Dmitri Dec 27 '09 at 21:27
I'm wikifying this question. See –  Anton Geraschenko Dec 30 '09 at 20:08

11 Answers 11

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Some material from the undergrad rep theory course in Cambridge: Example sheets, A recent set of notes (by Martin), and a less recent (but very nice) set of notes (by Teleman).

share|cite|improve this answer
Finally, I decided to use the notes of Teleman for the course :) Hope it will go fine. –  Dmitri Jan 13 '10 at 21:45
Since Dmitri just edited, I figured now might be a good time to comment that the first link above is broken. Perhaps those example sheets were taken down? –  David White Jun 28 '11 at 17:24
While I'm at it, I agree with Dmitri's choice, and gave this answer +1. I think representation theory is one of the hardest subjects an undergrad can learn. I recall how painful it was for me to try to learn as a 3rd year undergrad out of Isaac's Character Theory of Finite Groups. That book (and Serre's below) are great for grad students but I think Teleman's notes are some of the best I've seen at the undergrad level. I also retagged above to reflect that it's a request for a textbook-recommendation –  David White Jun 28 '11 at 17:28

The middle third of Serre's "Linear Representations of Finite Groups" is excellent. It's in 3 totally seperate sections, the first third is ok but very elementary and the last third is tough going. But the middle is "just right."

share|cite|improve this answer
+1. I am now imagining Noah as Goldilocks. –  S. Carnahan Nov 22 '09 at 1:22

I enjoyed Pavel Etingof's lecture notes for his representation theory class, which can be found here: (there is a link to it on his website) They move fast, but without skipping too much and still providing insightful proofs of results.

share|cite|improve this answer
Thanks a lot! This looks cool indeed! May be the level is a bit advanced, but it could be that I'll need only first 50 pages, even less –  Dmitri Nov 21 '09 at 20:08
Since I can't figure out a better place to ask this: Can anyone help me with two exercises from the above notes? In Problem 1.26 (c) I would like to know whether the field $k$ is assumed to be algebraically closed (no hints, please; just an answer to this question). In Problem 1.34 (d), am I right in assuming that the grading on $P_Q$ is given by $\mathrm{deg}p_i=0$ and $\mathrm{deg}a_h=1$ ? I really enjoy this text, by the way - it's concise and straight to the point (and not analysis-biased as Fulton-Harris). –  darij grinberg Dec 22 '09 at 10:57
@darij, it's better to post a new question -- many more people will see it. –  Ilya Nikokoshev Dec 31 '09 at 18:20

Mikhail Khovanov lists a bunch of materials for his course Representations of Finite Groups. Of course, he would be more interested in Hopf Algebras, their Representations, Applications, and Categorifications...

share|cite|improve this answer
This answer seem to contain everything!!! Amazing :) Huge thanks! –  Dmitri Dec 27 '09 at 19:11

Artin's Algebra has a good chapter on representations of finite groups. The exercises are nice.

share|cite|improve this answer
Thanks, I'll have a look! –  Dmitri Nov 21 '09 at 20:09

The first section of Representation Theory by Fulton and Harris is a great introduction to representations of finite groups (about a quarter of the book, if I remember correctly). There are lots of examples and exercises. The rest of the book is devoted to Lie theory.

share|cite|improve this answer
This is nice! I have the book :)) –  Dmitri Nov 21 '09 at 20:28
I second Fulton and Harris: I taught such a course several times initially with James and Liebeck but with a lot of changes after I read F&H. –  Fran Burstall Nov 21 '09 at 21:22

I was surprised to see Dummit and Foote's "Abstract algebra" book has a decent amount of basics on representations of finite groups. I believe this was our 2nd year algebra text, when I was an undergraduate. If your university uses this book, it might be cost effective for your students.

When I took a course on representations we used Serre's book. It's quite nice though it sounds like you want something that's a little more rich in examples and exercises.

share|cite|improve this answer
Thanks for this too! –  Dmitri Nov 21 '09 at 20:10

Alperin and Bell's book is where I got my introduction to the representation theory of finite groups. I didn't understand much at the time, but it helped a lot with getting my bearings as I delved deeper into representation theory in general.

If you're interested (as I am) specifically in representations of finite groups, there's a book by Digne and Michel; but this is probably far too much for undergraduates.

share|cite|improve this answer

I like M. Isaacs, "Representation theory of finite groups" since it has lots of exercises.

share|cite|improve this answer
Do you mean "Character theory of finite groups"? If so, it should be pointed out that the book is much more focused on character theory than on representation theory per se, both in terms of the language/terminology used and the kinds of question it discusses –  Yemon Choi Jul 1 '11 at 22:30

Here is one more reference (kindly communicated to me by one of my colleagues), the course of Iain Gordon. You can find the photos of all blackboards (I still have to go through this course, but it seem a bit similar in spirit to the courses of Teleman and Martin).


I just read the article "Representation Theory" of Ian Grojnowski in the book "Princeton companion of mathematics". I find it really vivid, inspiring and amazingly well written. The first 6 pages are on finite groups, then it proceeds to compact Lie groups and non-compact Lie groups, and smoothly finishes with Langlands correspondence :). The beginning will serve perfectly for the introductory lecture of my course :).

share|cite|improve this answer
I think it's a really good introduction, but unfortunately one of the photos is broken. If you are reading Iain... ;) –  Grétar Amazeen Dec 27 '09 at 18:54

At the risk of tooting my own horn, I have a new book that will be published by Springer which is a course on representation theory of groups intended for undergrads and beginning grads. It assume only linear algebra, group theory and basic ring theory. It assumes no module theory. Included are applications to combinatorics and probability. The link is

and it should be out by the end of the year.

share|cite|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.