Pronunciation: /ˌɒ pəˈreɪ ʃən/ ?
In a+b, a and b are operator, and + is an operator. The operation is the entire expression 'a+b'.
a+b is a binary operation, a*b is a binary operation, -n is a binary operation, n! is a binary operation.
Figure 1: Operators, operands and operation.

An operation, such as addition, is a mathematical function performed on one or more operands. [1]

An operation may be unary, meaning it has only one operand. An example of a unary operator is negation, such as -x. The only operand of the minus sign is the x, so it is a unary operator.

An operation may be binary, meaning it has exactly two operands. Most operators in arithmetic are binary. One example is subtraction. In the expression 3x - 2, the subtraction operator combines the two terms, 3x and 2 using the subtraction operation. So subtraction is a binary operation.

There are other classes of operations outside the scope of this encyclopedia.


  1. operation. http://wordnet.princeton.edu/. WordNet. Princeton University. (Accessed: 2011-01-08). http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=operation&sub=Search+WordNet&o2=&o0=1&o7=&o5=&o1=1&o6=&o4=&o3=&h=.
  2. Gilbert, Jimmie; and Gilbert Linda. Elements of Modern Algebra, 6th edition, pp 27-31. Thomson, Brooks/Cole, 2005.

Cite this article as:

Operation. 2009-12-21. All Math Words Encyclopedia. Life is a Story Problem LLC. http://www.allmathwords.org/en/o/operation.html.


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Revision History

2009-12-21: Added "References" (McAdams, David.)
2008-12-30: Added figure 1 (McAdams, David.)
2008-08-29: Added 'More Information' (McAdams, David.)
2007-08-08: Initial version (McAdams, David.)

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