Multiplication (often denoted by the cross symbol "×", by a point "?", by juxtaposition, or, on computers, by an asterisk "*") is one of the four elementary mathematical operations of arithmetic; with the others being addition, subtraction and division.
The multiplication of whole numbers may be thought as a repeated addition; that is, the multiplication of two numbers is equivalent to adding as many copies of one of them, the multiplicand, as the value of the other one, the multiplier. Normally, the multiplier is written first and multiplicand second^{[1]} (though this can vary by language^{[2]}).
For example, 4 multiplied by 3 (often written as and spoken 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 the commutative property: adding 3 copies of 4 gives the same result as adding 4 copies of 3:
Thus the designation of multiplier and multiplicand does not affect the result of the multiplication.
The multiplication of integers (including negative numbers), rational numbers (fractions) and real numbers is defined by a systematic generalization of this basic definition.
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. The product of two measurements is a new type of measurement, for instance multiplying the lengths of the two sides of a rectangle gives its area, this is the subject of dimensional analysis.
The inverse operation of multiplication is 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. A listing of the many different kinds of products that are used in mathematics is given in the product (mathematics) page.
In arithmetic, multiplication is often written using the sign "×" between the terms; that is, in infix notation.^{[3]} For example,
The sign is encoded in Unicode at × MULTIPLICATION SIGN (HTML ×
· ×
).
There are other mathematical notations for multiplication:
In computer programming, the asterisk (as in 5*2
) is still the most common notation. This is due to the fact that most computers historically were limited to small character sets (such as ASCII and EBCDIC) that lacked a multiplication sign (such as ?
or ×
), while the asterisk appeared on every keyboard. This usage originated in the FORTRAN programming language.
The numbers to be multiplied are generally called the "factors". The number to be multiplied is called the "multiplicand", while the number of times the multiplicand is to be multiplied comes from the "multiplier". Usually the multiplier is placed first and the multiplicand is placed second,^{[1]} however sometimes the first factor is the multiplicand and the second the multiplier.^{[6]} Additionally, there are some sources in which the term "multiplicand" is regarded as a synonym for "factor".^{[7]} In algebra, a number that is the multiplier of a variable or expression (e.g., the 3 in 3xy^{2}) is called a coefficient.
The result of a multiplication is called a product. A product of integers is a multiple of each factor. For example, 15 is the product of 3 and 5, and is both a multiple of 3 and a multiple of 5.
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 20th 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.
Methods of multiplication were documented in the Egyptian, Greek, Indian and Chinese civilizations.
The Ishango bone, dated to about 18,000 to 20,000 BC, hints at a knowledge of multiplication in the Upper Paleolithic era in Central Africa.
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 , , . 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 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 Zhoubi Suanjing, 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 HinduArabic 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:
Grid method multiplication or the box method, is used in primary schools in England and Wales & in some areas of the United States to help teach an understanding of how multiple digit multiplication works. An example of multiplying 34 by 13 would be to lay the numbers out in a grid like:
30  4  

10  300  40 
3  90  12 
and then add the entries.
The classical method of multiplying two ndigit numbers requires n^{2} 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 log(n) log log(n).
One can only meaningfully add or subtract quantities of the same type but can multiply or divide quantities of different types. Four bags with three marbles each can be thought of as:^{[1]}
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.
A common example is multiplying speed by time gives distance, so
Other examples:
The product of a sequence of terms can be written with the product symbol, which derives from the capital letter ? (Pi) in the Greek alphabet. Unicode position U+220F (?) contains a glyph for denoting such a product, distinct from U+03A0 (?), the letter. The meaning of this notation is given by:
that is
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 , the value of the product is the same as that of the single factor x_{m}. If , 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.
For the real and complex numbers, which includes for example natural numbers, integers and fractions, multiplication has certain properties:
Other mathematical systems that include a multiplication operation may not have all these properties. For example, multiplication is not, in general, commutative for matrices and quaternions.
In the book Arithmetices principia, nova methodo exposita, Giuseppe Peano proposed axioms for arithmetic based on his axioms for natural numbers.^{[9]} 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 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
Multiplication is extended in a similar way to rational numbers and then to real numbers.
The product of nonnegative integers can be defined with set theory using cardinal numbers or the Peano axioms. See below how to extend this to multiplying arbitrary integers, and then arbitrary rational numbers. The product of real numbers is defined in terms of products of rational numbers, see construction of the real numbers.
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 nonzero 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 2^{3}, 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 the base appears in the expression, so that the expression
indicates that n copies of the base a are to be multiplied together. This notation can be used whenever multiplication is known to be power associative.


With multiplication you have a multiplicand (written second) multiplied by a multiplier (written first)