- #1

- 15

- 0

## Main Question or Discussion Point

I have a dumb question. What is the difference between "difference" and "subtraction" or is the same thing. For example, 2 subtract 2 (2-2) is 0 .. But is the difference between 2 and -2 equal to 4?

- Thread starter cowah22
- Start date

- #1

- 15

- 0

I have a dumb question. What is the difference between "difference" and "subtraction" or is the same thing. For example, 2 subtract 2 (2-2) is 0 .. But is the difference between 2 and -2 equal to 4?

- #2

tiny-tim

Science Advisor

Homework Helper

- 25,789

- 249

Hi cowah22! Welcome to PF!

Yup … difference = subtraction!

Except that difference is always positive (or zero).

So you'd say "the difference between 7 and 5 is 2", and also "the difference between 5 and 7 is 2".

So it can sometimes cause confusion.

(And yes, the difference between 2 and -2, or between -2 and 2, is 4.)

- #3

- 23

- 0

How come? sorry, still noobish, but shouldn't be -2 and 2 = -4?

- #4

HallsofIvy

Science Advisor

Homework Helper

- 41,738

- 899

Yes, but you are comparing two different things. "2 subtract 2 (2-2) is 0" and "the difference between 2 and 2 is 0" (not -2). "2 subtract -2 (2-(-2)= 2+ 2) is 4" and "the difference between 2 and -2 is 4".I have a dumb question. What is the difference between "difference" and "subtraction" or is the same thing. For example, 2 subtract 2 (2-2) is 0 .. But is the difference between 2 and -2 equal to 4?

What do you mean by "and" here? Normally "and" is interpreted as a sum: -2+ 2= 0. You seem to be thinking about -2- 2= -4.How come? sorry, still noobish, but shouldn't be -2 and 2 = -4?

Here is on possible distinction between "subtraction" and "difference". The "difference between a and b" is a- b. Is the "difference between b and a" b-a or is it the same as the "difference between a and b"?

It's really a matter of common English rather than mathematics (and so much vaguer) but typically by the "difference between two numbers" we mean the

- #5

mathwonk

Science Advisor

Homework Helper

- 10,745

- 921

- #6

- 15

- 0

Seems odd, that: -2 + -2 = -4 (difference is 0?)

and the opposite: +2 - +2 = 0 (difference is 0?)

seems strange..

and the opposite: +2 - +2 = 0 (difference is 0?)

seems strange..

Last edited:

- #7

arildno

Science Advisor

Homework Helper

Gold Member

Dearly Missed

- 9,946

- 130

No. Here, you ADD the negative number (-2) with itself. The difference between a number and itself is, of course 0.Seems odd, that: -2 + -2 = -4 (difference is +4?)

Here, you SUBTRACT the positive number 2 from itself, giving 0 as the result.and the opposite: +2 - +2 = 0 (difference is 0?)

seems strange..

- #8

- 17

- 0

that i beleive is easily proven whith the ideas Ive mentioned.

Dont know if its actualy enough proof but its cool to think about

Nice question by the way

I just realized something

very interesting

ok draw your x-axis look

the numbers

2 and 4 the and number inbetween which is 3

the difference should signifie the length of the line betwen 2 and 4 right?

ok what about a line between 3 and 4

4and 4

It is the magnitude of line inbetween what ever integers you select

subtraction is numbers and is not geomtric because you cannot have a negative length

Therefore

Subtraction - Non geometric

difference - geometric

- #9

tiny-tim

Science Advisor

Homework Helper

- 25,789

- 249

Hi Marcwhydothe!

I get your point, but I think it depends what you mean by "geometric".

I entirely agree that classical geometry, of the ancient Greek sort,

But modern geometry (space-time, for example) is quite used to the coordinate system in general, and vectors in particular.

(A vector, of course, is a length

So I'd be more inclined to write:

difference - classical geometry

subtraction - modern geometry.

- #10

- 15

- 0

No. Here, you ADD the negative number (-2) with itself. The difference between a number and itself is, of course 0.

Here, you SUBTRACT the positive number 2 from itself, giving 0 as the result.

Strange.. My calculator told me different.

- #11

Daniel Y.

Then either you mistold the calculator what you wanted it to do, or you need a new calculator.Strange.. My calculator told me different.

Think of the values on a number line. Given 0 is the origin, and you are at a value -2, which is to say two left of the origin 0. Suppose you move two further toward the left, or -2 units, you would obviously end up four units to the left, or (as any value to the left of the origin is called), -4 units.

As for your calculator problem, on every calculator I've used there is a button that allows you to assign a negative value to a number, this is NOT the subtract button.

- #12

- 15

- 0

Well, I entered: 2,+/-, +, 2, +/-, = into the calculator and it returned -4. I tried this on several calculators and the answer was -4 each time. But then I tried it on another calculator, which converted 2,+/-, +,2,+/- into:

-(-(2)+2) which is 0 ... But if you flip this around (swap + and - signs) you get

((-2)-2) which is -4 Strange?

-(-(2)+2) which is 0 ... But if you flip this around (swap + and - signs) you get

((-2)-2) which is -4 Strange?

Last edited:

- #13

Daniel Y.

How is this strange? PEMDAS. Parenthesis first, which, on your first example is -(0), which is 0.Well, I entered: 2,+/-, +, 2, +/-, = into the calculator and it returned -4. I tried this on several calculators and the answer was -4 each time. But then I tried it on another calculator, which converted 2,+/-, +,2,+/- into:

-(-(2)+2) which is 0 ... But if you flip this around (swap + and - signs) you get

((-2)-2) which is -4 Strange?

On your second example two to the left of 0 and two more to the left -2 is -4.

- #14

- 15

- 0

How can a mathematical opposite not be the inverse, when looking at

-2 + -2

+2 - +2

There shouldn't be any multiplication here, right?

-2 + -2

+2 - +2

There shouldn't be any multiplication here, right?

Last edited:

- #15

arildno

Science Advisor

Homework Helper

Gold Member

Dearly Missed

- 9,946

- 130

You need to lay aside crude, fallacious and vague notions like "opposite".How can a mathematical opposite not be the inverse, when looking at

-2 + -2

+2 - +2

There shouldn't be any multiplication here, right?

You are doing two entirely different things here:

In the first, you ADD a number to itself.

In the second, you SUBTRACT a number from itself.

- #16

- 329

- 0

-2 * -2 = 4 why shouldn't this be -4 ?

2 * 2 = 4

division: -2 / -2 = 1

how can a positive number come from 2 negative numbers?

2 / 2 = 1

- #17

symbolipoint

Homework Helper

Education Advisor

Gold Member

- 5,734

- 979

http://www.math.toronto.edu/mathnet/questionCorner/minustimesaminus.html

-2 * -2 = 4 why shouldn't this be -4 ?

2 * 2 = 4

division: -2 / -2 = 1

how can a positive number come from 2 negative numbers?

2 / 2 = 1

- #18

arildno

Science Advisor

Homework Helper

Gold Member

Dearly Missed

- 9,946

- 130

Sigh. What do you mean by "come from"?

-2 * -2 = 4 why shouldn't this be -4 ?

2 * 2 = 4

division: -2 / -2 = 1

how can a positive number come from 2 negative numbers?

2 / 2 = 1

Here, I'll show you why (-1)*(-1)=1, by reference to the axioms valid for ordinary arithmetic.

1. (-1)+1=0 This is the basic definition of the "negative" of a number, i.e (-a)+a=0 for every number "a"

2. Since a=b implies c*a=c*b for numbers (expressions) a,b,c, 1. implies:

(-1)*((-1)+1)=(-1)*0

3. Since, for all numbers a,b, c we have a*(b+c)=a*b+a*c, 2. may be rewritten as:

(-1)*(-1)+(-1)*1=(-1)*0

4. Now, given any number "a", we have a*1=a and a*0, thus 3. may be rewritten as:

(-1)*(-1)+(-1)=0

5. Now, since for any numbers/expressions a=b implies a+c=b+c, 4. implies:

(-1)*(-1)+(-1)+1=0+1

6. Now, invoking 1. on the left hand side, and that 0+a=a on the right hand side, we get:

(-1)*(-1)+0=1

7. Noting that adding 0 doesn't change the value of "a", i.e, a+0=a, we finally get:

(-1)*(-1)=1

which was to be proven.

- #19

- 15

- 0

I just meant, if there isn't a positive number in an equation how can the result ever be negative.

If:

4 * 4 = 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 16

Why isn't:

-4 * -4 = -4 + -4 + -4 + -4 = -16

I know these seem like stupid questions.. But really, where would something like -4 * -4 = 16 ever occur in nature or physics... Which math is used to explain.

If:

4 * 4 = 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 16

Why isn't:

-4 * -4 = -4 + -4 + -4 + -4 = -16

I know these seem like stupid questions.. But really, where would something like -4 * -4 = 16 ever occur in nature or physics... Which math is used to explain.

Last edited:

- #20

symbolipoint

Homework Helper

Education Advisor

Gold Member

- 5,734

- 979

Read and study the information in the link in post #17, and read the proof in post #18; and then you should clearly understand why the product of two negative numbers is a positive number.I just meant, if there isn't a positive number in an equation how can the result ever be negative.

If:

4 * 4 = 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 16

Why isn't:

-4 * -4 = -4 + -4 + -4 + -4 = -16

I know these seem like stupid questions.. But really, where would something like -4 * -4 = 16 ever occur in nature or physics... Which math is used to explain.

- #21

arildno

Science Advisor

Homework Helper

Gold Member

Dearly Missed

- 9,946

- 130

Correct.I just meant, if there isn't a positive number in an equation how can the result ever be negative.

If:

4 * 4 = 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 16

Wrong. Here, you add -4 FOUR times with itself, rather than adding it MINUS FOUR times with itself.Why isn't:

-4 * -4 = -4 + -4 + -4 + -4 = -16

YOu should see from this that multiplication naively thought of as repeated addition is simply false. (It exists a non-naive way of having that perspective, but I won't go into that)

A rather irrelevant issue.I know these seem like stupid questions.. But really, where would something like -4 * -4 = 16 ever occur in nature or physics... Which math is used to explain.

However, here is one example:

Let the direction "to the right" be denoted as positive, "to the left" as negative.

Also, let some time instant be regarded as 0, instants after that has positive values, instants prior to zero has negative values.

Suppose a man walks (runs, actually) TO THE LEFT with the speed 4m/s.

His velocity is then -4m/s (speed is the magnitude of velocity and always positive)

Now, at the instant t=0, the man's position is at the origin.

Now, let us try to answer the question:

"Where was the man 4 seconds ago?"

Well, this is simply found by multiplying together the man's velocity (-4m/s) with the instant asked about (-4).

Thus, we get that the man's position 4 seconds ago was: -4m/s*-4s=16m

That is, 4 seconds ago, he was position 16meters on the right hand side of the origin.

- Replies
- 9

- Views
- 190K

- Last Post

- Replies
- 6

- Views
- 3K

- Last Post

- Replies
- 4

- Views
- 15K

- Last Post

- Replies
- 5

- Views
- 2K

- Last Post

- Replies
- 3

- Views
- 12K

- Replies
- 9

- Views
- 9K

- Replies
- 4

- Views
- 748

- Last Post

- Replies
- 4

- Views
- 4K