Addition is the mathematical process of putting things together. The plus sign "+" means that two numbers are added together. For example, in the picture on the right, there are 3 + 2 apples — meaning three apples and two other apples — which is the same as five apples, since 3 + 2 = 5. Besides counts of fruit, addition can also represent combining other physical and abstract quantities using different kinds of numbers: negative numbers, fractions, irrational numbers, vectors, and more.
As a mathematical operation, addition follows several important patterns. It is commutative, meaning that order does not matter, and it is associative, meaning that one can add more than two numbers (see Summation). Repeated addition of 1 is the same as counting; addition of 0 does not change a number. Addition also obeys predictable rules concerning related operations such as subtraction and multiplication. All of these rules can be proven, starting with the addition of natural numbers and generalizing up through the real numbers and beyond. General binary operations that continue these patterns are studied in abstract algebra.
Performing addition is one of the simplest numerical tasks. Addition of very small numbers is accessible to toddlers; the most basic task, 1 + 1, can be performed by infants as young as five months and even some animals. In primary education, children learn to add numbers in the decimal system, starting with single digits and progressively tackling more difficult problems. Mechanical aids range from the ancient abacus to the modern computer, where research on the most efficient implementations of addition continues to this day.
There are also situations where addition is "understood" even though no symbol appears:
The numbers or the objects to be added are generally called the "terms", the "addends", or the "summands"; this terminology carries over to the summation of multiple terms. This is to be distinguished from factors, which are multiplied. Some authors call the first addend the augend. In fact, during the Renaissance, many authors did not consider the first addend an "addend" at all. Today, due to the symmetry of addition, "augend" is rarely used, and both terms are generally called addends.
All of this terminology derives from Latin. "addition" and "add" are English words derived from the Latin verb addere, which is in turn a compound of ad "to" and dare "to give", from the Indo-European root do- "to give"; thus to add is to give to. Using the gerundive suffix -nd results in "addend", "thing to be added". Likewise from augere "to increase", one gets "augend", "thing to be increased".
"Sum" and "summand" derive from the Latin noun summa "the highest, the top" and associated verb summare. This is appropriate not only because the sum of two positive numbers is greater than either, but because it was once common to add upward, contrary to the modern practice of adding downward, so that a sum was literally higher than the addends.
Addere and summare date back at least to Boethius, if not to earlier Roman writers such as Vitruvius and Frontinus; Boethius also used several other terms for the addition operation. The later Middle English terms "adden" and "adding" were popularized by Chaucer.
Possibly the most fundamental interpretation of addition lies in combining sets:
This interpretation is easy to visualize, with little danger of ambiguity. It is also useful in higher mathematics; for the rigorous definition it inspires, see Natural numbers below. However, it is not obvious how one should extend this version of addition to include fractional numbers or negative numbers.
One possible fix is to consider collections of objects that can be easily divided, such as pies or, still better, segmented rods. Rather than just combining collections of segments, rods can be joined end-to-end, which illustrates another conception of addition: adding not the rods but the lengths of the rods.
The sum a + b can be interpreted as a binary operation that combines a and b, in an algebraic sense, or it can be interpreted as the addition of b more units to a. Under the latter interpretation, the parts of a sum a + b play asymmetric roles, and the operation a + b is viewed as applying the unary operation +b to a. Instead of calling both a and b addends, it is more appropriate to call a the augend in this case, since a plays a passive role. The unary view is also useful when discussing subtraction, because each unary addition operation has an inverse unary subtraction operation. and vice versa.
Addition is commutative, meaning that one can reverse the terms in a sum left-to-right, and the result will be the same. Symbolically, if a and b are any two numbers, then
A somewhat subtler property of addition is associativity, which comes up when one tries to define repeated addition. Should the expression
In the context of integers, addition of one also plays a special role: for any integer a, the integer (a + 1) is the least integer greater than a, also known as the successor of a. Because of this succession, the value of some a + b can also be seen as the successor of a, making addition iterated succession.
Even some nonhuman animals show a limited ability to add, particularly primates. In a 1995 experiment imitating Wynn's 1992 result (but using eggplants instead of dolls), rhesus macaques and cottontop tamarins performed similarly to human infants. More dramatically, after being taught the meanings of the Arabic numerals 0 through 4, one chimpanzee was able to compute the sum of two numerals without further training.
The prerequisite to addition in the decimal system is the internalization of the 100 single-digit "addition facts". One could memorize all the facts by rote, but pattern-based strategies are more enlightening and, for most people, more efficient:
In traditional mathematics, to add multidigit numbers, one typically aligns the addends vertically and adds the columns, starting from the ones column on the right. If a column exceeds ten, the extra digit is "carried" into the next column. For a more detailed description of this algorithm, see Elementary arithmetic: Addition. An alternate strategy starts adding from the most significant digit on the left; this route makes carrying a little clumsier, but it is faster at getting a rough estimate of the sum. There are many different standards-based mathematics methods, but many mathematics curricula such as TERC omit any instruction in traditional methods familiar to parents or mathematics professionals in favor of exploration of new methods.
Analog computers work directly with physical quantities, so their addition mechanisms depend on the form of the addends. A mechanical adder might represent two addends as the positions of sliding blocks, in which case they can be added with an averaging lever. If the addends are the rotation speeds of two shafts, they can be added with a differential. A hydraulic adder can add the pressures in two chambers by exploiting Newton's second law to balance forces on an assembly of pistons. The most common situation for a general-purpose analog computer is to add two voltages (referenced to ground); this can be accomplished roughly with a resistor network, but a better design exploits an operational amplifier.
Addition is also fundamental to the operation of digital computers, where the efficiency of addition, in particular the carry mechanism, is an important limitation to overall performance.
Adding machines, mechanical calculators whose primary function was addition, were the earliest automatic, digital computers. Wilhelm Schickard's 1623 Calculating Clock could add and subtract, but it was severely limited by an awkward carry mechanism. As he wrote to Johannes Kepler describing the novel device, "You would burst out laughing if you were present to see how it carries by itself from one column of tens to the next..." Adding 999,999 and 1 on Schickard's machine would require enough force to propagate the carries that the gears might be damaged, so he limited his machines to six digits, even though Kepler's work required more. By 1642 Blaise Pascal independently developed an adding machine with an ingenious gravity-assisted carry mechanism. Pascal's calculator was limited by its carry mechanism in a different sense: its wheels turned only one way, so it could add but not subtract, except by the method of complements. By 1674 Gottfried Leibniz made the first mechanical multiplier; it was still powered, if not motivated, by addition.
Adders execute integer addition in electronic digital computers, usually using binary arithmetic. The simplest architecture is the ripple carry adder, which follows the standard multi-digit algorithm taught to children. One slight improvement is the carry skip design, again following human intuition; one does not perform all the carries in computing 999 + 1, but one bypasses the group of 9s and skips to the answer.
Since they compute digits one at a time, the above methods are too slow for most modern purposes. In modern digital computers, integer addition is typically the fastest arithmetic instruction, yet it has the largest impact on performance, since it underlies all the floating-point operations as well as such basic tasks as address generation during memory access and fetching instructions during branching. To increase speed, modern designs calculate digits in parallel; these schemes go by such names as carry select, carry lookahead, and the Ling pseudocarry. Almost all modern implementations are, in fact, hybrids of these last three designs.
Unlike addition on paper, addition on a computer often changes the addends. On the ancient abacus and adding board, both addends are destroyed, leaving only the sum. The influence of the abacus on mathematical thinking was strong enough that early Latin texts often claimed that in the process of adding "a number to a number", both numbers vanish. In modern times, the ADD instruction of a microprocessor replaces the augend with the sum but preserves the addend. In a high-level programming language, evaluating a + b does not change either a or b; to change the value of a one uses the addition assignment operator a += b.
Here, A U B is the union of A and B. An alternate version of this definition allows A and B to possibly overlap and then takes their disjoint union, a mechanism which allows any common elements to be separated out and therefore counted twice.
The other popular definition is recursive:
Again, there are minor variations upon this definition in the literature. Taken literally, the above definition is an application of the Recursion Theorem on the poset N². On the other hand, some sources prefer to use a restricted Recursion Theorem that applies only to the set of natural numbers. One then considers a to be temporarily "fixed", applies recursion on b to define a function "a + ", and pastes these unary operations for all a together to form the full binary operation.
This recursive formulation of addition was developed by Dedekind as early as 1854, and he would expand upon it in the following decades. He proved the associative and commutative properties, among others, through mathematical induction; for examples of such inductive proofs, see Addition of natural numbers.
The simplest conception of an integer is that it consists of an absolute value (which is a natural number) and a sign (generally either positive or negative). The integer zero is a special third case, being neither positive nor negative. The corresponding definition of addition must proceed by cases:
Although this definition can be useful for concrete problems, it is far too complicated to produce elegant general proofs; there are too many cases to consider.
A much more convenient conception of the integers is the Grothendieck group construction. The essential observation is that every integer can be expressed (not uniquely) as the difference of two natural numbers, so we may as well define an integer as the difference of two natural numbers. Addition is then defined to be compatible with subtraction:
The commutativity and associativity of rational addition is an easy consequence of the laws of integer arithmetic. For a more rigorous and general discussion, see field of fractions.
A common construction of the set of real numbers is the Dedekind completion of the set of rational numbers. A real number is defined to be a Dedekind cut of rationals: a non-empty set of rationals that is closed downward and has no greatest element. The sum of real numbers a and b is defined element by element:
This definition was first published, in a slightly modified form, by Richard Dedekind in 1872. The commutativity and associativity of real addition are immediate; defining the real number 0 to be the set of negative rationals, it is easily seen to be the additive identity. Probably the trickiest part of this construction pertaining to addition is the definition of additive inverses.
Unfortunately, dealing with multiplication of Dedekind cuts is a case-by-case nightmare similar to the addition of signed integers. Another approach is the metric completion of the rational numbers. A real number is essentially defined to be the a limit of a Cauchy sequence of rationals, lim an. Addition is defined term by term:
This definition was first published by Georg Cantor, also in 1872, although his formalism was slightly different. One must prove that this operation is well-defined, dealing with co-Cauchy sequences. Once that task is done, all the properties of real addition follow immediately from the properties of rational numbers. Furthermore, the other arithmetic operations, including multiplication, have straightforward, analogous definitions.
There are many binary operations that can be viewed as generalizations of the addition operation on the real numbers. The field of abstract algebra is centrally concerned with such generalized operations, and they also appear in set theory and category theory.
In modular arithmetic, the set of integers modulo 12 has twelve elements; it inherits an addition operation from the integers that is central to musical set theory. The set of integers modulo 2 has just two elements; the addition operation it inherits is known in Boolean logic as the "exclusive or" function. In geometry, the sum of two angle measures is often taken to be their sum as real numbers modulo 2π. This amounts to an addition operation on the circle, which in turn generalizes to addition operations on many-dimensional tori.
The general theory of abstract algebra allows an "addition" operation to be any associative and commutative operation on a set. Basic algebraic structures with such an addition operation include commutative monoids and abelian groups.
In category theory, disjoint union is seen as a particular case of the coproduct operation, and general coproducts are perhaps the most abstract of all the generalizations of addition. Some coproducts, such as Direct sum and Wedge sum, are named to evoke their connection with addition.
Given a set with an addition operation, one cannot always define a corresponding subtraction operation on that set; the set of natural numbers is a simple example. On the other hand, a subtraction operation uniquely determines an addition operation, an additive inverse operation, and an additive identity; for this reason, an additive group can be described as a set that is closed under subtraction.
Multiplication can be thought of as repeated addition. If a single term x appears in a sum n times, then the sum is the product of n and x. If n is not a natural number, the product may still make sense; for example, multiplication by −1 yields the additive inverse of a number.
In the real and complex numbers, addition and multiplication can be interchanged by the exponential function:
There are even more generalizations of multiplication than addition. In general, multiplication operations always distribute over addition; this requirement is formalized in the definition of a ring. In some contexts, such as the integers, distributivity over addition and the existence of a multiplicative identity is enough to uniquely determine the multiplication operation. The distributive property also provides information about addition; by expanding the product (1 + 1)(a + b) in both ways, one concludes that addition is forced to be commutative. For this reason, ring addition is commutative in general.
Division is an arithmetic operation remotely related to addition. Since a/b = a(b−1), division is right distributive over addition: (a + b) / c = a / c + b / c. However, division is not left distributive over addition; 1/ (2 + 2) is not the same as 1/2 + 1/2.
The maximum operation "max (a, b)" is a binary operation similar to addition. In fact, if two nonnegative numbers a and b are of different orders of magnitude, then their sum is approximately equal to their maximum. This approximation is extremely useful in the applications of mathematics, for example in truncating Taylor series. However, it presents a perpetual difficulty in numerical analysis, essentially since "max" is not invertible. If b is much greater than a, then a straightforward calculation of (a + b) − b can accumulate an unacceptable round-off error, perhaps even returning zero. See also Loss of significance.
The approximation becomes exact in a kind of infinite limit; if either a or b is an infinite cardinal number, their cardinal sum is exactly equal to the greater of the two. Accordingly, there is no subtraction operation for infinite cardinals.
Maximization is commutative and associative, like addition. Furthermore, since addition preserves the ordering of real numbers, addition distributes over "max" in the same way that multiplication distributes over addition:
Tying these observations together, tropical addition is approximately related to regular addition through the logarithm:
Summation describes the addition of arbitrarily many numbers, usually more than just two. It includes the idea of the sum of a single number, which is itself, and the empty sum, which is zero. An infinite summation is a delicate procedure known as a series.
Counting a finite set is equivalent to summing 1 over the set.
Linear combinations combine multiplication and summation; they are sums in which each term has a multiplier, usually a real or complex number. Linear combinations are especially useful in contexts where straightforward addition would violate some normalization rule, such as mixing of strategies in game theory or superposition of states in quantum mechanics.
Convolution is used to add two independent random variables defined by distribution functions. Its usual definition combines integration, subtraction, and multiplication. In general, convolution is useful as a kind of domain-side addition; by contrast, vector addition is a kind of range-side addition.