The abstraction of number.

The Basics of Arithmetic


Arithmetic is one of the first things we learn as children, along with learning how to read and write. On a deeper level, it pertains to the study of numbers themselves and is the core basis for a considerable amount of relative subjects and knowledge we acquire as we advance through life. Though it gets complicated as we grow up, with decimal points, fractions and more numbers continually being added to fundamental operations, the basics of arithmetic however remain the same.

The earliest records of arithmetic being used date back to the Egyptians and Babylonians around 2000 BC. It was around 300 BC when the Greeks found a way to combine mathematics with their mystical and philosophical beliefs. The oldest and most elementary part of mathematics, arithmetic studies the properties of operations between numbers: adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.

Addition is the most basic operation of arithmetic and consists of combining two or more numbers into one total unit. The result is called the sum of the numbers. Repeated addition refers to the adding up of the same number over and over again, and the repeated addition of the number 1 is commonly known as counting.

Subtraction has an inverse relationship with addition. It is an operation that helps you find the difference between two numbers. This is done by subtracting the subtrahend from the minuend. When the minuend is a larger number, the result will be a positive number. On the other hand, if the minuend is smaller than the subtrahend, then the result will be a negative number.

Multiplication is also a combination of two or more numbers into a single unit. The original two numbers are called the multiplier and the multiplicand, and the total is called the product. While this operation is similar to addition, also being both commutative and associative, the multiplication process involves adding the multiplicand to itself for a certain number of times as required by the multiplier.

Division is inversely related to multiplication, which is to say that when the quotient or answer is multiplied by the divisor, the result should be the original dividend itself. In other words, you can check if your answer is correct by working your way backwards through the process of multiplication.

Arithmetic is one of the four arts encompassed in the Quadrivium or higher division of liberal arts, which were taught in the medieval university as an education for students who would go on to specialize in professions such as philosophy and medicine. Liberal arts gave students the general understandings of language through its lower division, and the world around them through its higher division. The lower division, the Trivium, covered grammar, logic and rhetoric; while the higher division, the Quadrivium, comprised arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.

Arithmetic is an essential subject to understand as it is meant to prepare students for more specialized professions. Although nowadays we like to use computers or calculators to do these operations for us, understanding the basic principles of arithmetic and thus knowing how to compute for the answer manually is essential to our daily practical life applications.