• April 21, 2024

Understanding Basic Mathematical Terms: Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division

Understanding Basic Mathematical Terms

Understanding mathematical terms is vital for everyone, from students to degreed professionals. Math is used on a daily basis in all aspects of life, and it is important to know the basic terminology before taking any math courses.

Common Factors – Two numbers that divide evenly into each other. Complementary Angles – Two angles that together equal 180 degrees.


Addition is an operation that finds the sum of two or more numbers. It is also called combining and it is one of the four basic operations in math. Addition is used in everyday life when people are counting items, calculating how many bees went out to suck nectar together or determining the total number of eggs found in an egg hunt.

A good practice when adding numbers is to break them down according to their place values so that it is easier for the mind to keep track of them as they are added together. Adding multiple digit numbers is easier when they are grouped together into groups of tens and ones, for example 7 + 5 = 12.

The addition symbol is represented by the plus sign (+). Addition is a binary operation and as such it is commutative. It is also associative, meaning that the order in which you add numbers does not affect the result.


Subtraction is an arithmetic operation that involves taking away one number from another. It’s a great way to get children thinking about the difference between two numbers, and is an important mathematical concept for them to understand.

Children can start learning subtraction in Year 1 using the resources that are available on Twinkl, such as these Subtraction from 20 number line worksheets. These can be a great starting point for subtraction, and also help children build confidence with inverse operations, such as addition through subtraction.

In the case of subtracting integers, subtraction follows certain predictable patterns. For example, the integers a and b are equal if (a + b) 0 or a – b = 0 or a – b > 0. Subtraction is also anticommutative, which means that the order in which you subtract numbers does matter. For instance, if you subtract 7 from 10, the answer is 10 – 7. This is a simple but essential property of subtraction.


Multiplication is the process of adding groups of numbers together to get a larger number. For example, if you have two groups of three ice creams, the total number is 6 ice creams. If you have a third group of three ice creams, the total is 12 ice creams. The first number, called the multiplicand, is added to the second number, called the multiplier, which then gets repeated until you have the final product. This is also known as the principle of repeated addition.

It is important for students to understand the concept of multiplication because it is one of the four basic arithmetic operations, along with addition, subtraction, and division. It is also the basis of algebra. Multiplication is commutative, which means that the order of the numbers doesn’t affect the result. For example, 2 groups of 3 x 4 groups of 3 gives the same answer as 5 groups of 3. It is easier for students to visualize this when they use multiplication tables, with rows and columns of numbers.


The division operation is the inverse of multiplication. It is used to share a whole number, the dividend, into equal groups, or parts, called the divisors. The remaining amount is the quotient. When division is done correctly, the quotient and remainder are the same.

Children will learn about division in primary school starting from Year 1 and it is usually the trickiest of the four basic operations for children to grasp. Dividing by fractions involves understanding what a quotient is and using divisibility rules.

The division symbol is / and it is written as either (Divisor x Quotient) or (Divisor + Quotient). Unlike addition and multiplication, which are both distributive, division is not, in general, commutative. This means that the order in which numbers are divided can change their result. This is known as the division algorithm. In particular, division by any nonzero element of a ring cannot always give a positive integer.

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