Let $R$ be a commutative ring and $A$ and $R$-module. We say that $x_1,\dots,x_n\in R$ is a regular sequence on $A$ if $(x_1,\dots,x_n)A\not = A$ and $x_i$ is not a zero divisor on $A/(x_1,\dots,x_{i-1})A$ for all $i$. Regular sequences are a central theme in commutative algebra. Here’s a particularly interesting theorem about them that allows you to figure out a whole bunch of Ext-groups:

**Theorem.** Let $A$ and $B$ be $R$-modules and $x_1,\dots,x_n$ a regular sequence on $A$. If $(x_1,\dots,x_n)B = 0$ then

$$

{\rm Ext}_R^n(B,A) \cong {\rm Hom}_R(B,A/(x_1,\dots,x_n)A)$$

This theorem tells us we can calculate the Ext-group ${\rm Ext}_R^n(B,A)$ simply by finding a regular sequence of length $n$, and calculating a group of homomorphisms. We get two cool things out of this theorem: first, a corollary of this theorem is that any two maximal regular sequences on $A$ have the same length if they are both contained in some ideal $I$ such that $IA\not= A$, and second, it enapsulates a whole range of Ext-calculations in an easy package.

For example, let’s say we wanted to calculate ${\rm Ext}_\Z^1(\Z/2,\Z)$. Well, $2\in\Z$ is a regular sequence, and so the above theorem tells us that this Ext-group is just ${\rm Hom}_\Z(\Z/2,\Z/2) \cong\Z/2$.

Another example: is ${\rm Ext}_{\Z[x]}^1(\Z,\Z[x])\cong\Z$.

Of course, the above theorem is really just a special case of a Koszul complex calculation. However, it can be derived without constructing the Koszul complex in general, and so offers an instructive and minimalist way of seeing that for Noetherian rings and finitely generated modules, the notion of length of a maximal regular sequence is well-defined.