Pronunciation: /ˌɒ.pəˈreɪ.ʃən/ Explain
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.[2]

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 an 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. McAdams, David E.. All Math Words Dictionary, operation. 2nd Classroom edition 20150108-4799968. pg 130. Life is a Story Problem LLC. January 8, 2015. Buy the book
  2. Gilbert, Jimmie; and Gilbert Linda. Elements of Modern Algebra. 6th edition. pp 27-31. Thomson, Brooks/Cole. 2005. Last Accessed 9/5/2018. Buy the book

Cite this article as:

McAdams, David E. Operation. 4/27/2019. All Math Words Encyclopedia. Life is a Story Problem LLC. https://www.allmathwords.org/en/o/operation.html.

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Revision History

4/27/2019: Changed equations and expressions to new format. (McAdams, David E.)
12/21/2018: Reviewed and corrected IPA pronunication. (McAdams, David E.)
9/5/2018: Removed broken links, updated license, implemented new markup. (McAdams, David E.)
12/21/2009: Added "References". (McAdams, David E.)
12/30/2008: Added figure 1. (McAdams, David E.)
8/29/2008: Added 'More Information'. (McAdams, David E.)
8/8/2007: Initial version. (McAdams, David E.)

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