Product (mathematics)

Calculation results
Addition (+)
Subtraction (−)
Multiplication (×)
Division (÷)
Modulo (mod)
nth root (√)
Logarithm (log)

In mathematics, a product is the result of multiplying, or an expression that identifies factors to be multiplied. Thus, for instance, 6 is the product of 2 and 3 (the result of multiplication), and is the product of and (indicating that the two factors should be multiplied together).

The order in which real or complex numbers are multiplied has no bearing on the product; this is known as the commutative law of multiplication. When matrices or members of various other associative algebras are multiplied, the product usually depends on the order of the factors. Matrix multiplication, for example, and multiplication in other algebras is in general non-commutative.

There are many different kinds of products in mathematics: besides being able to multiply just numbers, polynomials or matricies, one can also define products on many different algebraic structures. An overview of these different kinds of products is given here.

Product of two numbers

Main article: multiplication

Product of two natural numbers

3 by 4 is 12

Placing several stones into a rectangular pattern with rows and columns gives


Product of two integers

Integers allow positive and negative numbers. The two numbers are multiplied just like natural numbers, except we need an additional rule for the signs:

In words, we have:

Product of two fractions

Two fractions can be multiplied by multiplying their numerators and denominators:

Product of two real numbers

For a rigorous definition of the product of two real numbers see Construction of the real numbers.

Product of two complex numbers

Two complex numbers can be multiplied by the distributive law and the fact that , as follows:

Geometric meaning of complex multiplication

A complex number in polar coordinates.

Complex numbers can be written in polar coordinates:


, from which we obtain:

The geometric meaning is that we multiply the magnitudes and add the angles.

Product of two quaternions

The product of two quaternions can be found in the article on quaternions. However, it is interesting to note that in this case, and are in general different.

Product of sequences

The product operator for the product of a sequence is denoted by the capital Greek letter Pi (in analogy to the use of the capital Sigma as summation symbol). The product of a sequence consisting of only one number is just that number itself. The product of no factors at all is known as the empty product, and is equal to 1.

Commutative rings

Commutative rings have a product operation.

Residue classes of integers

Main article: residue class

Residue classes in the rings can be added:

and multiplied:

Rings of functions

Main article: ring of functions

Functions to the real numbers can be added or multiplied by adding or multiplying their outputs:


Main article: convolution
The convolution of the square wave with itself gives the triangular function

Two functions from the reals to itself can be multiplied in another way, called the convolution.


then the integral

is well defined and is called the convolution.

Under the Fourier transform, convolution becomes point-wise function multiplication.

Polynomial rings

Main article: polynomial ring

The product of two polynomials is given by the following:


Products in linear algebra

There are many different kinds of products in linear algebra; some of these have confusingly similar names (outer product, exterior product) but have very different meanings. Others have very different names (outer product, tensor product, Kronecker product) but convey essentially the same idea. A brief overview of these is given here.

Scalar multiplication

Main article: scalar multiplication

By the very definition of a vector space, one can form the product of any scalar with any vector, giving a map .

Scalar product

Main article: scalar product

A scalar product is a bilinear map:

with the following conditions, that for all .

From the scalar product, one can define a norm by letting .

The scalar product also allows one to define an angle between two vectors:

In -dimensional Euclidean space, the standard scalar product (called the dot product) is given by:

Cross product in 3-dimensional space

Main article: cross product

The cross product of two vectors in 3-dimensions is a vector perpendicular to the two factors, with length equal to the area of the parallelogram spanned by the two factors.

The cross product can also be expressed as the formal[lower-alpha 1] determinant:

Composition of linear mappings

Main article: function composition

A linear mapping can be defined as a function f between two vector spaces V and W with underlying field F, satisfying[1]

If one only considers finite dimensional vector spaces, then

in which bV andbW denote the bases of V and W, and vi denotes the component of v on bVi, and Einstein summation convention is applied.

Now we consider the composition of two linear mappings between finite dimensional vector spaces. Let the linear mapping f map V to W, and let the linear mapping g map W to U. Then one can get

Or in matrix form:

in which the i-row, j-column element of F, denoted by Fij, is fji, and Gij=gji.

The composition of more than two linear mappings can be similarly represented by a chain of matrix multiplication.

Product of two matrices

Main article: matrix product

Given two matrices


their product is given by

Composition of linear functions as matrix product

There is a relationship between the composition of linear functions and the product of two matrices. To see this, let r = dim(U), s = dim(V) and t = dim(W) be the (finite) dimensions of vector spaces U, V und W. Let be a basis of U, be a basis of V and be a basis of W. In terms of this basis, let be the matrix representing f : U → V and be the matrix representing g : V → W. Then

is the matrix representing .

In other words: the matrix product is the description in coordinates of the composition of linear functions.

Tensor product of vector spaces

Main article: Tensor product

Given two finite dimensional vector spaces V and W, the tensor product of them can be defined as a (2,0)-tensor satisfying:

where V* and W* denote the dual spaces of V and W.[2]

For inifinite-dimensional vector spaces, one also has the:

The tensor product, outer product and Kronecker product all convey the same general idea. The differences between these are that the Kronecker product is just a tensor product of matrices, with respect to a previously-fixed basis, whereas the tensor product is usually given in its intrinsic definition. The outer product is simply the Kronecker product, limited to vectors (instead of matrices).

The class of all objects with a tensor product

In general, whenever one has two mathematical objects that can be combined in a way that behaves like a linear algebra tensor product, then this can be most generally understood as the internal product of a monoidal category. That is, the monoidal category captures precisely the meaning of a tensor product; it captures exactly the notion of why it is that tensor products behave the way they do. More precisely, a monoidal category is the class of all things (of a given type) that have a tensor product.

Other products in linear algebra

Other kinds of products in linear algebra include:

Cartesian product

In set theory, a Cartesian product is a mathematical operation which returns a set (or product set) from multiple sets. That is, for sets A and B, the Cartesian product A × B is the set of all ordered pairs (a, b) where a ∈ A and b ∈ B.[3]

The class of all things (of a given type) that have Cartesian products is called a Cartesian category. Many of these are Cartesian closed categories. Sets are an example of such objects.

Empty product

The empty product on numbers and most algebraic structures has the value of 1 (the identity element of multiplication) just like the empty sum has the value of 0 (the identity element of addition). However, the concept of the empty product is more general, and requires special treatment in logic, set theory, computer programming and category theory.

Products over other algebraic structures

Products over other kinds of algebraic structures include:

A few of the above products are examples of the general notion of an internal product in a monoidal category; the rest are describable by the general notion of a product in category theory.

Products in category theory

All of the previous examples are special cases or examples of the general notion of a product. For the general treatment of the concept of a product, see product (category theory), which describes how to combine two objects of some kind to create an object, possibly of a different kind. But also, in category theory, one has:

Other products

See also


  1. Here, “formal" means that this notation has the form of a determinant, but does not strictly adhere to the definition; it is a mnemonic used to remember the expansion of the cross product.


  1. Clarke, Francis (2013). Functional analysis, calculus of variations and optimal control. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 9–10. ISBN 1447148207.
  2. Boothby, William M. (1986). An introduction to differentiable manifolds and Riemannian geometry (2nd ed.). Orlando: Academic Press. p. 200. ISBN 0080874398.
  3. Moschovakis, Yiannis (2006). Notes on set theory (2nd ed.). New York: Springer. p. 13. ISBN 0387316094.

External links

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