2 × 2 real matrices
In mathematics, the associative algebra of 2×2 real matrices is denoted by M(2, R). Two matrices p and q in M(2, R) have a sum p + q given by matrix addition. The product matrix p q is formed from the dot product of the rows and columns of its factors through matrix multiplication. For
let
Then q q* = q* q = (ad − bc) I, where I is the 2×2 identity matrix. The real number ad − bc is called the determinant of q. When ad − bc ≠ 0, q is an invertible matrix, and then
The collection of all such invertible matrices constitutes the general linear group GL(2, R). In terms of abstract algebra, M(2, R) with the associated addition and multiplication operations forms a ring, and GL(2, R) is its group of units. M(2, R) is also a fourdimensional vector space, so it is considered an associative algebra. It is ringisomorphic to the coquaternions, but has a different profile.
The 2×2 real matrices are in oneone correspondence with the linear mappings of the twodimensional Cartesian coordinate system into itself by the rule
Contents
Profile
Within M(2, R), the multiples by real numbers of the identity matrix I may be considered a real line. This real line is the place where all commutative subrings come together:
Let P_{m} = {xI + ym : x, y ∈ R} where m^{2} ∈ { −I, 0, I }. Then P_{m} is a commutative subring and M(2, R) = ∪P_{m} where the union is over all m such that m^{2} ∈ { −I, 0, I }.
To identify such m, first square the generic matrix:
When a + d = 0 this square is a diagonal matrix. Thus one assumes d = −a when looking for m to form commutative subrings. When mm = −I, then bc = −1 − aa, an equation describing a hyperbolic paraboloid in the space of parameters (a, b, c). Such an m serves as an imaginary unit. In this case P_{m} is isomorphic to the field of (ordinary) complex numbers.
When mm = +I, m is an involutory matrix. Then bc = +1 − aa, also giving a hyperbolic paraboloid. If a matrix is an idempotent matrix, it must lie in such a P_{m} and in this case P_{m} is isomorphic to the ring of splitcomplex numbers.
The case of a nilpotent matrix, mm = 0, arises when only one of b or c is nonzero, and the commutative subring P_{m} is then a copy of the dual number plane.
When M(2, R) is reconfigured with a change of basis, this profile changes to the profile of splitquaternions where the sets of square roots of I and −I take a symmetrical shape as hyperboloids.
Equiareal mapping
First transform one differential vector into another:
Areas are measured with density , a differential 2form which involves the use of exterior algebra. The transformed density is
Thus the equiareal mappings are identified with SL(2, R) = {g ∈ M(2, R) : det(g) = 1}, the special linear group. Given the profile above, every such g lies in a commutative subring P_{m} representing a type of complex plane according to the square of m. Since g g* = I, one of the following three alternatives occurs:
 mm = −I and g is on a circle of Euclidean rotations; or
 mm = I and g is on an hyperbola of squeeze mappings; or
 mm = 0 and g is on a line of shear mappings.
Writing about planar affine mapping, Rafael Artzy made a similar trichotomy of planar, linear mapping in his book Linear Geometry (1965).
Functions of 2 × 2 real matrices
The commutative subrings of M(2, R) determine the function theory; in particular the three types of subplanes have their own algebraic structures which set the value of algebraic expressions. Consideration of the square root function and the logarithm function serves to illustrate the constraints implied by the special properties of each type of subplane P_{m} described in the above profile. The concept of identity component of the group of units of P_{m} leads to the polar decomposition of elements of the group of units:
 If mm = −I, then z = ρ exp(θm).
 If mm = 0, then z = ρ exp(s m) or z = − ρ exp(s m).
 If mm = I, then z = ρ exp(a m) or z = −ρ exp(a m) or z = m ρ exp(a m) or z = −m ρ exp(a m).
In the first case exp(θ m) = cos(θ) + m sin(θ). In the case of the dual numbers exp(s m) = 1 + s m. Finally, in the case of split complex numbers there are four components in the group of units. The identity component is parameterized by ρ and exp(a m) = cosh a + m sinh a.
Now regardless of the subplane P_{m}, but the argument of the function must be taken from the identity component of its group of units. Half the plane is lost in the case of the dual number structure; threequarters of the plane must be excluded in the case of the splitcomplex number structure.
Similarly, if ρ exp(a m) is an element of the identity component of the group of units of a plane associated with 2×2 matrix m, then the logarithm function results in a value log ρ + a m. The domain of the logarithm function suffers the same constraints as does the square root function described above: half or threequarters of P_{m} must be excluded in the cases mm = 0 or mm = I.
Further function theory can be seen in the article complex functions for the C structure, or in the article motor variable for the splitcomplex structure.
2 × 2 real matrices as complex numbers
Every 2×2 real matrix can be interpreted as one of three types of (generalized^{[1]}) complex numbers: standard complex numbers, dual numbers, and splitcomplex numbers. Above, the algebra of 2×2 matrices is profiled as a union of complex planes, all sharing the same real axis. These planes are presented as commutative subrings P_{m}. We can determine to which complex plane a given 2×2 matrix belongs as follows and classify which kind of complex number that plane represents.
Consider the 2×2 matrix
We seek the complex plane P_{m} containing z.
As noted above, the square of the matrix z is diagonal when a + d = 0. The matrix z must be expressed as the sum of a multiple of the identity matrix I and a matrix in the hyperplane a + d = 0. Projecting z alternately onto these subspaces of R^{4} yields
Furthermore,
 where .
Now z is one of three types of complex number:
 If p < 0, then it is an ordinary complex number:

 Let . Then .
 If p = 0, then it is the dual number:


 .

 If p > 0, then z is a splitcomplex number:

 Let . Then .
Similarly, a 2×2 matrix can also be expressed in polar coordinates with the caveat that there are two connected components of the group of units in the dual number plane, and four components in the splitcomplex number plane.
References
 ^ Anthony A. Harkin & Joseph B. Harkin (2004) Geometry of Generalized Complex Numbers, Mathematics Magazine 77(2):118–29
 Rafael Artzy (1965) Linear Geometry, Chapter 26 Subgroups of the Plane Affine Group over the Real Field, p. 94, AddisonWesley.
 Helmut Karzel & Gunter Kist (1985) "Kinematic Algebras and their Geometries", found in
 Rings and Geometry, R. Kaya, P. Plaumann, and K. Strambach editors, pp. 437–509, esp 449,50, D. Reidel ISBN 9027721122 .
 Svetlana Katok (1992) Fuchsian groups, pp. 113ff, University of Chicago Press ISBN 0226425827 .
 Garret Sobczyk (2012). "Chapter 2: Complex and Hyperbolic Numbers". New Foundations in Mathematics: The Geometric Concept of Number. Birkhäuser. ISBN 9780817683849.