In algebraic geometry, there are two equivalent ways of looking at a scheme: it can be viewed as a petit topos with a structure sheaf of commutative rings (i.e. locally ringed space), or as an object of the gros topos of sheaves on the site of commutative rings with the Zariski topology. In other words, a scheme may be identified with the sheaf it represents; this sheaf is called the functor of points of the scheme.
To see this, note that by the Yoneda lemma a scheme may be identified with the sheaf it represents on the gros Zariski site of schemes; and since any scheme admits an affine open cover, the comparison lemma says that sheaves on the site of all schemes may be identified with sheaves on the site of affine schemes.
The functor of points approach has the advantage of making certain constructions much simpler (e.g. the fibered product in the category of schemes), and eliminating the need for certain constructions like the Zariski spectrum. In his famous 1973 Buffalo Colloquium talk, Alexander Grothendieck urged that his earlier definition of scheme via locally ringed spaces should be abandoned in favour of the functorial point of view.
The functor from commutative rings to sets which sends a ring, , to the set of simultaneous solutions in of a set of polynomials, in corresponds to the affine scheme . These -points are then equivalently the hom-space
The functor which sends to the points of the projective space corresponds to a non-affine scheme.