arithmetic, branch of mathematics commonly considered a separate branch but in actuality a part of algebra. Conventionally the term has been most widely applied to simple teaching of the skills of dealing with numbers for practical purposes, e.g., computation of areas, proportions, costs, and the like. The four fundamental operations of this study are addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. In advanced study the concept of number is greatly generalized to include not only complex numbers, but also quaternions, tensors, and abstract entities with no other meaning than that they obey certain laws (see algebra). The division of arithmetic into the practical and the theoretical dates back to classical Greek times, when the term logistic referred to elementary arithmetic and the term arithmetic was reserved for the theory.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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