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Multiplication (often denoted by the cross symbol "×", or by the absence of symbol) is one of the four elementary, mathematical operations of arithmetic; with the others being addition, subtraction and division.
The multiplication of two whole numbers is equivalent to the addition of one of them with itself as many times as the value of the other one; for example, 3 multiplied by 4 (often said as "3 times 4") can be calculated by adding 3 copies of 4 together:
Here 3 and 4 are the "factors" and 12 is the "product".
One of the main properties of multiplication is that the result does not depend on the place of the factor that is repeatedly added to itself (commutative property). 3 multiplied by 4 can also be calculated by adding 4 copies of 3 together:
Multiplication can also be visualized as counting objects arranged in a rectangle (for whole numbers) or as finding the area of a rectangle whose sides have given lengths. The area of a rectangle does not depend on which side is measured first, which illustrates the commutative property.
In general, multiplying two measurements gives a new type, depending on the measurements. For instance:
The inverse operation of the multiplication is the division. For example, since 4 multiplied by 3 equals 12, then 12 divided by 3 equals 4. Multiplication by 3, followed by division by 3, yields the original number (since the division of a number other than 0 by itself equals 1).
Multiplication is also defined for other types of numbers, such as complex numbers, and more abstract constructs, like matrices. For these more abstract constructs, the order that the operands are multiplied sometimes does matter.
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The sign is encoded in Unicode at U+00D7 × multiplication sign (HTML
There are other mathematical notations for multiplication:
|nth root (√)|
The numbers to be multiplied are generally called the "factors" or "multiplicands". When thinking of multiplication as repeated addition, the number to be multiplied is called the "multiplicand", while the number of addends is called the "multiplier". In algebra, a number that is the multiplier of a variable or expression (e.g., the 3 in 3xy2) is called a coefficient.
The common methods for multiplying numbers using pencil and paper require a multiplication table of memorized or consulted products of small numbers (typically any two numbers from 0 to 9), however one method, the peasant multiplication algorithm, does not.
Multiplying numbers to more than a couple of decimal places by hand is tedious and error prone. Common logarithms were invented to simplify such calculations. The slide rule allowed numbers to be quickly multiplied to about three places of accuracy. Beginning in the early twentieth century, mechanical calculators, such as the Marchant, automated multiplication of up to 10 digit numbers. Modern electronic computers and calculators have greatly reduced the need for multiplication by hand.
The Egyptian method of multiplication of integers and fractions, documented in the Ahmes Papyrus, was by successive additions and doubling. For instance, to find the product of 13 and 21 one had to double 21 three times, obtaining 1 × 21 = 21, 4 × 21 = 84, 8 × 21 = 168. The full product could then be found by adding the appropriate terms found in the doubling sequence:
The Babylonians used a sexagesimal positional number system, analogous to the modern day decimal system. Thus, Babylonian multiplication was very similar to modern decimal multiplication. Because of the relative difficulty of remembering 60 × 60 different products, Babylonian mathematicians employed multiplication tables. These tables consisted of a list of the first twenty multiples of a certain principal number n: n, 2n, ..., 20n; followed by the multiples of 10n: 30n 40n, and 50n. Then to compute any sexagesimal product, say 53n, one only needed to add 50n and 3n computed from the table.
In the mathematical text Zhou Bi Suan Jing, dated prior to 300 BC, and the Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art, multiplication calculations were written out in words, although the early Chinese mathematicians employed Rod calculus involving place value addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. These place value decimal arithmetic algorithms were introduced by Al Khwarizmi to Arab countries in the early 9th century.
The modern method of multiplication based on the Hindu–Arabic numeral system was first described by Brahmagupta. Brahmagupta gave rules for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Henry Burchard Fine, then professor of Mathematics at Princeton University, wrote the following:
The standard method of multiplying two n-digit numbers requires n2 simple multiplications. Multiplication algorithms have been designed that reduce the computation time considerably when multiplying large numbers. In particular for very large numbers methods based on the Discrete Fourier Transform can reduce the number of simple multiplications to the order of n log2(n) log2 log2(n).
When two measurements are multiplied together the product is of a type depending on the types of the measurements. The general theory is given by dimensional analysis. This analysis is routinely applied in physics but has also found applications in finance. One can only meaningfully add or subtract quantities of the same type but can multiply or divide quantities of different types.
A common example is multiplying speed by time gives distance, so
The product of a sequence of terms can be written with the product symbol, which derives from the capital letter Π (Pi) in the Greek alphabet. Unicode position U+220F (∏) contains a glyph for denoting such a product, distinct from U+03A0 (Π), the letter. The meaning of this notation is given by:
The subscript gives the symbol for a dummy variable (i in this case), called the "index of multiplication" together with its lower bound (1), whereas the superscript (here 4) gives its upper bound. The lower and upper bound are expressions denoting integers. The factors of the product are obtained by taking the expression following the product operator, with successive integer values substituted for the index of multiplication, starting from the lower bound and incremented by 1 up to and including the upper bound. So, for example:
More generally, the notation is defined as
where m and n are integers or expressions that evaluate to integers. In case m = n, the value of the product is the same as that of the single factor xm. If m > n, the product is the empty product, with the value 1.
One may also consider products of infinitely many terms; these are called infinite products. Notationally, we would replace n above by the lemniscate ∞. The product of such a series is defined as the limit of the product of the first n terms, as n grows without bound. That is, by definition,
One can similarly replace m with negative infinity, and define:
provided both limits exist.
There are a number of further properties of multiplication not satisfied by all types of numbers.
In the book Arithmetices principia, nova methodo exposita, Giuseppe Peano proposed axioms for arithmetic based on his axioms for natural numbers. Peano arithmetic has two axioms for multiplication:
Here S(y) represents the successor of y, or the natural number that follows y. The various properties like associativity can be proved from these and the other axioms of Peano arithmetic including induction. For instance S(0). denoted by 1, is a multiplicative identity because
The axioms for integers typically define them as equivalence classes of ordered pairs of natural numbers. The model is based on treating (x,y) as equivalent to x−y when x and y are treated as integers. Thus both (0,1) and (1,2) are equivalent to −1. The multiplication axiom for integers defined this way is
The rule that −1 × −1 = 1 can then be deduced from
It is possible, though difficult, to create a recursive definition of multiplication with set theory. Such a system usually relies on the Peano definition of multiplication.
if the n copies of a are to be combined in disjoint union then clearly they must be made disjoint; an obvious way to do this is to use either a or n as the indexing set for the other. Then, the members of are exactly those of the Cartesian product . The properties of the multiplicative operation as applying to natural numbers then follow trivially from the corresponding properties of the Cartesian product.
There are many sets that, under the operation of multiplication, satisfy the axioms that define group structure. These axioms are closure, associativity, and the inclusion of an identity element and inverses.
A simple example is the set of non-zero rational numbers. Here we have identity 1, as opposed to groups under addition where the identity is typically 0. Note that with the rationals, we must exclude zero because, under multiplication, it does not have an inverse: there is no rational number that can be multiplied by zero to result in 1. In this example we have an abelian group, but that is not always the case.
To see this, look at the set of invertible square matrices of a given dimension, over a given field. Now it is straightforward to verify closure, associativity, and inclusion of identity (the identity matrix) and inverses. However, matrix multiplication is not commutative, therefore this group is nonabelian.
Another fact of note is that the integers under multiplication is not a group, even if we exclude zero. This is easily seen by the nonexistence of an inverse for all elements other than 1 and -1.
Multiplication in group theory is typically notated either by a dot, or by juxtaposition (the omission of an operation symbol between elements). So multiplying element a by element b could be notated a b or ab. When referring to a group via the indication of the set and operation, the dot is used, e.g., our first example could be indicated by
Numbers can count (3 apples), order (the 3rd apple), or measure (3.5 feet high); as the history of mathematics has progressed from counting on our fingers to modelling quantum mechanics, multiplication has been generalized to more complicated and abstract types of numbers, and to things that are not numbers (such as matrices) or do not look much like numbers (such as quaternions).
When multiplication is repeated, the resulting operation is known as exponentiation. For instance, the product of three factors of two (2×2×2) is "two raised to the third power", and is denoted by 23, a two with a superscript three. In this example, the number two is the base, and three is the exponent. In general, the exponent (or superscript) indicates how many times to multiply base by itself, so that the expression
indicates that the base a to be multiplied by itself n times.