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Arithmetic or arithmetics (from the Greek word αριθμός = number) is the oldest and most elementary branch of mathematics, used by almost everyone, for tasks ranging from simple day-to-day counting to advanced science and business calculations. It involves the study of quantity, especially as the result of combining numbers. In common usage, it refers to the simpler properties when using the traditional operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with smaller values of numbers.

Decimal arithmetic

Although decimal notation may conceptually describe any numerals from a system with a decimal base, it is commonly used exclusively for the written forms of numbers with Arabic numerals as the basic digits, especially when the numeral includes a decimal separator preceding a sequence of these digits to represent a fractional part of the number. In this common usage, the written form of the number implies the existence of positional notation. For example, 507.36 denotes 5 hundreds (102), plus 0 tens (101), plus 7 units (100), plus 3 tenths (10-1) plus 6 hundredths (10-2). The conception of zero as a number comparable to the other basic digits, and the corresponding definition of multiplication and addition with zero, is an essential part of this notation.

Algorism comprises all of the rules for performing arithmetic computations using this type of written numeral. For example, addition produces the sum of two arbitrary numbers. The result is calculated by the repeated addition of single digits from each number which occupy the same position, proceeding from right to left. An addition table with ten rows and ten columns will display all possible values for each sum. If an individual sum exceeds the value nine, the result is represented with two digits. The rightmost digit is the value for the current position, and the result for the subsequent addition of the digits to the left increases by the value of the second (leftmost) digit, which is always one. This adjustment is termed a carry of the value one.

The process for multiplying two arbitrary numbers is similar to the process for addition. A multiplication table with ten rows and ten columns will list the results for each pair of digits. If an individual product of a pair of digits exceeds nine, the carry adjustment will increase the result of any subsequent multiplication from digits to the left by a value equal to the second (leftmost) digit, which is any value from one to eight (8*8=64). Additional steps define the final result.

Similar techniques exist for subtraction and division.

The creation of a correct process for multiplication relies on the relationship between values of adjacent digits. The value for any single digit in a numeral depends on its position. Also, each position to the left represents a value which is ten times larger than the position to the right. In mathematical terms, the exponent for the base of ten increases by one (to the left) or decreases by one (to the right). Therefore, the value for any arbitrary digit is multiplied by a value of the form 10n with integer n. The list of values corresponding to all possible positions for a single digit is written as {...,10²,10,1,10-1,10-2,...}.

Repeated multiplication of any value in this list by ten will produce another value in the list. In mathematical terminology, this characteristic is defined as closure, and the previous list is described as closed under multiplication. It is the basis for correctly finding the results of multiplication using the previous technique. This outcome is one example of the uses of number theory.

Arithmetic operations

The basic arithmetic operations are addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, although this subject also includes more advanced operations, such as manipulations of percentages, square roots, exponentiation, and logarithmic functions. Arithmetic is performed according to an order of operations. Any set of objects upon which all four operations of arithmetic can be performed (except division by zero), and wherein these four operations obey the usual laws, is called a field.

Addition OR (+)

Addition is the basic operation of arithmetic. In its simplest form, addition combines two numbers, the addends or terms, into a single number, the sum of the numbers.

Adding more than two numbers can be viewed as repeated addition; this procedure is known as summation and includes ways to add infinitely many numbers in an infinite series; repeated addition of the number one is the most basic form of counting.

Addition is commutative and associative so the order in which the terms are added does not matter. The identity element of addition (the additive identity) is 0, that is, adding zero to any number will yield that same number. Also, the inverse element of addition (the additive inverse) is the opposite of any number, that is, adding the opposite of any number to the number itself will yield the additive identity, 0. For example, the opposite of 8 is -8, so 8 + (-8) = 0.

Addition can be given geometrically as follows:

If a and b are the lengths of two sticks, then if we place the sticks one after the other, the length of the stick thus formed will be a + b.

Subtraction or (−)

Subtraction is the opposite of addition. Subtraction finds the difference between two numbers, the minuend minus the subtrahend. If the minuend is larger than the subtrahend, the difference will be positive; if the minuend is smaller than the subtrahend, the difference will be negative; and if they are equal, the difference will be zero.

Subtraction is neither commutative nor associative. For that reason, it is often helpful to look at subtraction as addition of the minuend and the opposite of the subtrahend, that is a − b = a + (−b). When written as a sum, all the properties of addition hold.

Multiplication OR (×, ·, or *)

Multiplication is the second basic operation of arithmetic. Multiplication also combines two numbers into a single number, the product. The two original numbers are called the multiplier and the multiplicand, sometimes both simply called factors.

Multiplication is best viewed as a scaling operation. If the real numbers are imagined as lying in a line, multiplication by a number, say x, greater than 1 is the same as stretching everything away from zero uniformly, in such a way that the number 1 itself is stretched to where x was. Similarly, multiplying by a number less than 1 can be imagined as squeezing towards zero. (Again, in such a way that 1 goes to the multiplicand.)

Multiplication is commutative and associative; further it is distributive over addition and subtraction. The multiplicative identity is 1, that is, multiplying any number by 1 will yield that same number. Also, the multiplicative inverse is the reciprocal of any number (except zero; zero is the only number without a multiplicative inverse), that is, multiplying the reciprocal of any number by the number itself will yield the multiplicative identity.

Division (÷ or /)

Division is essentially the opposite of multiplication. Division finds the quotient of two numbers, the dividend divided by the divisor. Any dividend divided by zero is undefined. For positive numbers, if the dividend is larger than the divisor, the quotient will be greater than one, otherwise it will be less than one (a similar rule applies for negative numbers). The quotient multiplied by the divisor always yields the dividend.

Division is neither commutative nor associative. As it is helpful to look at subtraction as addition, it is helpful to look at division as multiplication of the dividend times the reciprocal of the divisor, that is a ÷ b = a × 1b. When written as a product, it will obey all the properties of multiplication.
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