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# Negative number

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### Negative number

This thermometer is indicating a negative Fahrenheit temperature (−4°F).

In mathematics, a negative number is a real number that is less than zero. Negative numbers represent opposites. If positive represents movement to the right, negative represents movement to the left. If positive represents above sea level, then negative represents below level. If positive represents a deposit, negative represents a withdrawal. They are often used to represent the magnitude of a loss or deficiency. A debt that is owed may be thought of as a negative asset, a decrease in some quantity may be thought of as a negative increase. If a quantity may have either of two opposite senses, then one may choose to distinguish between those senses—perhaps arbitrarily—as positive and negative. In the medical context of fighting a tumor, an expansion could be thought of as a negative shrinkage. Negative numbers are used to describe values on a scale that goes below zero, such as the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales for temperature. The laws of arithmetic for negative numbers ensure that the common sense idea of an opposite is reflected in arithmetic. For example, − − 3 = 3 because the opposite of an opposite is the original thing.

Negative numbers are usually written with a minus sign in front. For example, −3 represents a negative quantity with a magnitude of three, and is pronounced "minus three" or "negative three". To help tell the difference between a subtraction operation and a negative number, occasionally the negative sign is placed slightly higher than the minus sign (as a superscript). Conversely, a number that is greater than zero is called positive; zero is usually[1] thought of as neither positive nor negative.[2] The positivity of a number may be emphasized by placing a plus sign before it, e.g. +3. In general, the negativity or positivity of a number is referred to as its sign.

Every real number other than zero is either positive or negative. The positive whole numbers are referred to as natural numbers, while the positive and negative whole numbers (together with zero) are referred to as integers.

In bookkeeping, amounts owed are often represented by red numbers, or a number in parentheses, as an alternative notation to represent negative numbers.

Negative numbers appeared for the first time in history in the Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art, which in its present form dates from the period of the Chinese Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220), but may well contain much older material.[3] Liu Hui (c. 3rd century) established rules for adding and subtracting negative numbers.[4] By the 7th century, Indian mathematicians such as Brahmagupta were describing the use of negative numbers. Islamic mathematicians further developed the rules of subtracting and multiplying negative numbers and solved problems with negative coefficients.[5] Western mathematicians accepted the idea of negative numbers by the 17th century. Prior to the concept of negative numbers, mathematicians such as Diophantus considered negative solutions to problems "false" and equations requiring negative solutions were described as absurd.[6]

## Contents

• Introduction 1
• As the result of subtraction 1.1
• The number line 1.2
• Signed numbers 1.3
• Everyday uses of negative numbers 2
• Sport 2.1
• Science 2.2
• Finance 2.3
• Other 2.4
• Arithmetic involving negative numbers 3
• Subtraction 3.2
• Multiplication 3.3
• Division 3.4
• Negation 4
• Formal construction of negative integers 5
• Uniqueness 5.1
• History 6
• References 8
• Citations 8.1
• Bibliography 8.2

## Introduction

### As the result of subtraction

Negative numbers can be thought of as resulting from the subtraction of a larger number from a smaller. For example, negative three is the result of subtracting three from zero:

0 − 3  =  −3.

In general, the subtraction of a larger number from a smaller yields a negative result, with the magnitude of the result being the difference between the two numbers. For example,

5 − 8  =  −3

since 8 − 5 = 3.

### The number line

The relationship between negative numbers, positive numbers, and zero is often expressed in the form of a number line:

Numbers appearing farther to the right on this line are greater, while numbers appearing farther to the left are less. Thus zero appears in the middle, with the positive numbers to the right and the negative numbers to the left.

Note that a negative number with greater magnitude is considered less. For example, even though (positive) 8 is greater than (positive) 5, written

8 > 5

negative 8 is considered to be less than negative 5:

−8 < −5.

(Because, for example, if you have £-8 you have less than if you have £-5.) Therefore, any negative number is less than any positive number, so

−8 < 5  and −5 < 8.

### Signed numbers

In the context of negative numbers, a number that is greater than zero is referred to as positive. Thus every real number other than zero is either positive or negative, while zero itself is not considered to have a sign. Positive numbers are sometimes written with a plus sign in front, e.g. +3 denotes a positive three.

Because zero is neither positive nor negative, the term nonnegative is sometimes used to refer to a number that is either positive or zero, while nonpositive is used to refer to a number that is either negative or zero. Zero is a neutral number.

## Everyday uses of negative numbers

### Sport

• Goal difference in association football and hockey; points difference in rugby football; net run rate in cricket; golf scores relative to par.
• Plus-minus differential in ice hockey: the difference in total goals scored for the team (+) and against the team (−) when a particular player is on the ice is the player’s +/− rating. Players can have a negative (+/−) rating.
• British football clubs are deducted points if they enter administration, and thus have a negative points total until they have earned at least that many points that season.
• Lap (or sector) times in Formula 1 may be given as the difference compared to a previous lap (or sector) (such as the previous record, or the lap just completed by a driver in front), and will be positive if slower and negative if faster.
• In some athletics events, such as sprint races, the hurdles, the triple jump and the long jump, the wind assistance is measured and recorded,[7] and is positive for a tailwind and negative for a headwind.[8]

### Finance

• Bank account balances which are overdrawn.
• Refunds to a credit card or debit card are a negative debit.
• A company might make a negative annual profit (i.e. a loss).
• The annual percentage growth in a country’s GDP might be negative, which is one indicator of being in a recession.[9]
• Occasionally, a rate of inflation may be negative (deflation), indicating a fall in average prices.[10]
• The daily change in a share price or stock market index, such as the FTSE 100 or the Dow Jones.
• A negative number in financing is synonymous with “debt” and “deficit” which are also known as “being in the red”.
• Interest rates can be negative,[11][12][13] when the lender is charged to deposit their money.

### Other

• The numbering of storeys in a building below the ground floor.
• When playing an audio on a portable media player, such as an iPod, the screen display may show the time remaining as a negative number, which increases up to zero at the same rate as the time already played increases from zero.
• Television game shows:
• Participants on QI often finish with a negative points score.
• Teams on University Challenge have a negative score if their first answers are incorrect and interrupt the question.
• Jeopardy! has a negative money score – contestants play for an amount of money and any incorrect answer that costs them more than what they have now can result in a negative score.
• The Price Is Right pricing game Buy or Sell, if any money is lost and is more than the amount currently in the bank, it also incurs a negative score.
• The change in support for a political party between elections, known as swing.
• A politician's approval rating.[14]
• In video games, a negative number indicates loss of life, damage, a score penalty, or consumption of a resource, depending on the genre of the simulation.
• Employees with flexible working hours may have a negative balance on their timesheet if they’ve worked fewer total hours than contracted to that point. Employees may be able to take more than their annual holiday allowance in a year, and carry forward a negative balance to the next year.
• Transposing notes on an electronic keyboard are shown on the display with positive numbers for increases and negative numbers for decreases, e.g. '-1' for one semitone down.

## Arithmetic involving negative numbers

The minus sign "−" signifies the operator for both the binary (two-operand) operation of subtraction (as in y − z) and the unary (one-operand) operation of negation (as in −x, or twice in −(−x)). A special case of unary negation occurs when it operates on a positive number, in which case the result is a negative number (as in −5).

The ambiguity of the "−" symbol does not generally lead to ambiguity in arithmetical expressions, because the order of operations makes only one interpretation or the other possible for each "−". However, it can lead to confusion and be difficult for a person to understand an expression when operator symbols appear adjacent to one another. A solution can be to parenthesize the unary "−" along with its operand.

For example, the expression 7 + −5 may be clearer if written 7 + (−5) (even though they mean exactly the same thing formally). The subtraction expression 7–5 is a different expression that doesn't represent the same operations, but it evaluates to the same result.

Sometimes in elementary schools a number may be prefixed by a superscript minus sign or plus sign to explicitly distinguish negative and positive numbers as in[15]

2 + 5  gives 7.

A visual representation of the addition of positive and negative numbers. Larger balls represent numbers with greater magnitude.

Addition of two negative numbers is very similar to addition of two positive numbers. For example,

(−3) + (−5)  =  −8.

The idea is that two debts can be combined into a single debt of greater magnitude.

When adding together a mixture of positive and negative numbers, one can think of the negative numbers as positive quantities being subtracted. For example:

8 + (−3)  =  8 − 3  =  5  and (−2) + 7  =  7 − 2  =  5.

In the first example, a credit of 8 is combined with a debt of 3, which yields a total credit of 5. If the negative number has greater magnitude, then the result is negative:

(−8) + 3  =  3 − 8  =  −5  and 2 + (−7)  =  2 − 7  =  −5.

Here the credit is less than the debt, so the net result is a debt.

### Subtraction

As discussed above, it is possible for the subtraction of two non-negative numbers to yield a negative answer:

5 − 8  =  −3

In general, subtraction of a positive number is the same thing as addition of a negative. Thus

5 − 8  =  5 + (−8)  =  −3

and

(−3) − 5  =  (−3) + (−5)  =  −8

On the other hand, subtracting a negative number is the same as adding a positive. (The idea is that losing a debt is the same thing as gaining a credit.) Thus

3 − (−5)  =  3 + 5  =  8

and

(−5) − (−8)  =  (−5) + 8  =  3.

### Multiplication

When multiplying numbers, the magnitude of the product is always just the product of the two magnitudes. The sign of the product is determined by the following rules:

• The product of one positive number and one negative number is negative.
• The product of two negative numbers is positive.

Thus

(−2) × 3  =  −6

and

(−2) × (−3)  =  6.

The reason behind the first example is simple: adding three −2's together yields −6:

(−2) × 3  =  (−2) + (−2) + (−2)  =  −6.

The reasoning behind the second example is more complicated. The idea again is that losing a debt is the same thing as gaining a credit. In this case, losing two debts of three each is the same as gaining a credit of six:

(−2 debts ) × (−3 each)  =  +6 credit.

The convention that a product of two negative numbers is positive is also necessary for multiplication to follow the distributive law. In this case, we know that

(−2) × (−3)  +  2 × (−3)  =  (−2 + 2) × (−3)  =  0 × (−3)  =  0.

Since 2 × (−3) = −6, the product (−2) × (−3) must equal 6.

These rules lead to another (equivalent) rule—the sign of any product a × b depends on the sign of a as follows:

• if a is positive, then the sign of a × b is the same as the sign of b, and
• if a is negative, then the sign of a × b is the opposite of the sign of b.

The justification for why the product of two negative numbers is a positive number can be observed in the analysis of complex numbers.

### Division

The sign rules for division are the same as for multiplication. For example,

8 ÷ (−2)  =  −4,
(−8) ÷ 2  =  −4,

and

(−8) ÷ (−2)  =  4.

If dividend and divisor have the same sign, the result is always positive.

## Negation

The negative version of a positive number is referred to as its negation. For example, −3 is the negation of the positive number 3. The sum of a number and its negation is equal to zero:

3 + (−3)  =  0.

That is, the negation of a positive number is the additive inverse of the number.

Using algebra, we may write this principle as an algebraic identity:

x + (−x ) =  0.

This identity holds for any positive number x. It can be made to hold for all real numbers by extending the definition of negation to include zero and negative numbers. Specifically:

• The negation of 0 is 0, and
• The negation of a negative number is the corresponding positive number.

For example, the negation of −3 is +3. In general,

−(−x)  =  x.

The absolute value of a number is the non-negative number with the same magnitude. For example, the absolute value of −3 and the absolute value of 3 are both equal to 3, and the absolute value of 0 is 0.

## Formal construction of 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:

(a, b) ~ (c, d) if and only if a + d = b + c.

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. Note that Z, equipped with these operations of addition and multiplication, is a ring, and is in fact, the prototypical example of a ring.

We can also define a total order on Z by writing

(a, b) ≤ (c, d) if and only if a + db + 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).

This construction is a special case of the Grothendieck construction.

### Uniqueness

The negative of a number is unique, as is shown by the following proof.

Let x be a number and let y be its negative. Suppose y′ is another negative of x. By an axiom of the real number system

x + y \prime = 0,
x + y\,\, = 0.

And so, x + y′ = x + y. Using the law of cancellation for addition, it is seen that y′ = y. Thus y is equal to any other negative of x. That is, y is the unique negative of x.

## History

For a long time, negative solutions to problems were considered "false". In Hellenistic Egypt, the Greek mathematician 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.

Negative numbers appear for the first time in history in the Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art (Jiu zhang suan-shu), which in its present form dates from the period of the Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220), but may well contain much older material.[3] The mathematician Liu Hui (c. 3rd century) established rules for the addition and subtraction of negative numbers. The historian Jean-Claude Martzloff theorized that the importance of duality in Chinese natural philosophy made it easier for the Chinese to accept the idea of negative numbers.[4] The Chinese were able to solve simultaneous equations involving negative numbers. The Nine Chapters used red counting rods to denote positive coefficients and black rods for negative.[4] 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. Liu Hui writes:

Now there are two opposite kinds of counting rods for gains and losses, let them be called positive and negative. Red counting rods are positive, black counting rods are negative.[4]

The ancient Indian

• Maseres' biographical information
• , 9 March 2006Negative NumbersBBC Radio 4 series "In Our Time," on
• Operations with Signed IntegersEndless Examples & Exercises:
• Math Forum: Ask Dr. Math FAQ: Negative Times a Negative

[19]

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