Adding a negative number is the same as subtracting the corresponding positive number:
(In order to avoid confusion between the concepts of subtraction and negation, often the negative sign is written as a superscript:
Subtracting a positive number from a smaller positive number yields a negative result:
One way of understanding this is to regard multiplication by a positive number as repeated addition. Think of 3 x 2 as 3 groups, with 2 in each group. Thus, 3 × 2 = 2 + 2 + 2 = 6 and so naturally -2 × 3 = (−2) + (−2) + (−2) = −6.
Multiplication by a negative number can be regarded as repeated addition as well. For instance, 3 × -2 can be thought of as 3 groups, with -2 in each group. 3 × −2 = (-2) + (−2) + (-2) = −6. Notice that this keeps multiplication commutative: 3 × −2 = −2 × 3 = −6.
Applying the same interpretation of "multiplication by a negative number" for a value that is also negative, we have:
|−4 × −3
||= − (−4) − (−4) − (−4) |
||= 4 + 4 + 4 |
||= 12 |
Division is similar to multiplication. Brahmagupta stated for the first time that negative divided by negative to be positive. Positive divided by negative to be negative. (Reference: Arithmetic and mensuration of Brahmagupta by HT Colebrooke). Brahmagupta's convention has survived to date: if the dividend and divisor have different signs, then the result is negative.
- 8 / −2 = −4
- −10 / 2 = −5
If dividend and divisor have the same sign, the result is positive, even if both are negative.
- −12 / −3 = 4
Formal construction of negative and non-negative integers
In a similar manner to rational numbers, we can extend the natural numbers N to the integers Z by defining integers as an ordered pair of natural numbers (a, b). We can extend addition and multiplication to these pairs with the following rules:
- (a, b) + (c, d) = (a + c, b + d)
- (a, b) × (c, d) = (a × c + b × d, a × d + b × c)
We define an equivalence relation ~ upon these pairs with the following rule:
This equivalence relation is compatible with the addition and multiplication defined above, and we may define Z to be the quotient set N²/~, i.e. we identify two pairs (a, b) and (c, d) if they are equivalent in the above sense.
- (a, b) ~ (c, d) if and only if a + d = b + c.
We can also define a total order on Z by writing
- (a, b) ≤ (c, d) if and only if a + d ≤ b + c.
This will lead to an additive zero of the form (a, a), an additive inverse of (a, b) of the form (b, a), a multiplicative unit of the form (a + 1, a), and a definition of subtraction
- (a, b) − (c, d) = (a + d, b + c).
First use of negative numbers
For a long time, negative solutions to problems were considered "false". The Chinese and Indian works contain the earliest known uses of negative numbers.
In Hellenistic Egypt, Diophantus in the third century A.D. referred to an equation that was equivalent to 4x + 20 = 0 (which has a negative solution) in Arithmetica, saying that the equation was absurd. This indicates that no concept of negative numbers existed in the ancient Mediterranean.
The abstract concept was recognised as early as 100 BC–50 BC. A Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) Chinese work, Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art (Jiu-zhang Suanshu), edited later by Liu Hui in 263, used red counting rods to denote positive coefficients and black rods for negative. The Chinese were also able to solve simultaneous equations involving negative numbers (this system is the exact opposite of contemporary printing of positive and negative numbers in the fields of banking, accounting, and commerce, wherein red numbers denote negative values and black numbers signify positive values).
The use of negative numbers was known in early India, and their role in situations like mathematical problems of debt was understood. Consistent and correct rules for working with these numbers were formulated. The diffusion of this concept led the Arab intermediaries to pass it to Europe.
The ancient Indian Bakhshali Manuscript, which Pearce Ian claimed was written some time between 200 B.C. and A.D. 300, while George Gheverghese Joseph dates it to about 400 AD and Takao Hayashi to no later than the early 7th century, carried out calculations with negative numbers, using "+" as a negative sign.
During the 7th century A.D., negative numbers were used in India to represent debts. The Indian mathematician Brahmagupta, in Brahma-Sphuta-Siddhanta (written in A.D. 628), discussed the use of negative numbers to produce the general form quadratic formula that remains in use today. He also found negative solutions of quadratic equations and gave rules regarding operations involving negative numbers and zero, such as "A debt cut off from nothingness becomes a credit; a credit cut off from nothingness becomes a debt. " He called positive numbers "fortunes," zero "a cipher," and negative numbers "debts."
During the 8th century A.D., the Islamic world learned about negative numbers from Arabic translations of Brahmagupta's works, and by A.D. 1000 Arab mathematicians were using negative numbers for debts.
In the 12th century A.D. in India, Bhaskara also gave negative roots for quadratic equations but rejected them because they were inappropriate in the context of the problem. He stated that a negative value is "in this case not to be taken, for it is inadequate; people do not approve of negative roots."
Knowledge of negative numbers eventually reached Europe through Latin translations of Arabic and Indian works.
European mathematicians, for the most part, resisted the concept of negative numbers until the 17th century, although Fibonacci allowed negative solutions in financial problems where they could be interpreted as debits (chapter 13 of Liber Abaci, A.D. 1202) and later as losses (in Flos).
In the 15th century, Nicolas Chuquet, a Frenchman, used negative numbers as exponents and referred to them as “absurd numbers.”
In A.D. 1759, Francis Maseres, an English mathematician, wrote that negative numbers "darken the very whole doctrines of the equations and make dark of the things which are in their nature excessively obvious and simple". He came to the conclusion that negative numbers were nonsensical.
Negative numbers were not well understood until modern times. As recently as the 18th century, the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler believed that negative numbers were greater than infinity, a viewpoint which was shared by John Wallis. It was common practice at that time to ignore any negative results derived from equations, on the assumption that they were meaningless. The argument that negative numbers are greater than infinity involved the quotient 1/x and considering what happens as x approaches and crosses the point x = 0 from the positive side.
- Bourbaki, Nicolas (1998). Elements of the History of Mathematics. Berlin, Heidelberg, and New York: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 3540647678.
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