Quandaries and Queries

The K-5 curriculum states that at a grade 5 level students should "understand and use the terms multiplier, multiplicand" The curriculum defines 'multiplicand' as " a number being multiplied by another number. A factor." There is no definition given for 'multiplier' Question: Define these words- are they just other words for 'factors'. If so, how important is it that students use these terms? It would seem like 'factors' would be the better choice of words to use. If multiplcand refers to eg. the first factor in the equation and the 'multiplier' the seond term, (if in fact it does)- is this not confusing for students when we teach them that multiplication is commutative?

Thanks for clearing this up for me.

Sask Valley School Division

Hi Karen,

From what I read in Nelson's Canadian School Mathematics Dictionary, 1995, the terms multiplicand and multiplier are used when we refer to multiplication in its simplest form, as "the process of adding a whole number to itself a certain number of times, e.g. the multiplication of 5 by 3 is 5 + 5 + 5, producing the product 15. In this case, 5 is called the multiplicand and 3 is the multiplier. The process is written 5 x 3 = 15."

The curriculum guide is not very clear. In the middle years it does not use the terms multiplicand and multiplier at all.

Your comment about the possible confusion in a system where multiplication is commutative is certainly valid. Unfortunately these terms are in common use and hence students should be aware of them. The terms aren't as important as the concepts, and we should probably try to avoid making too much out of them particularly in such a system.


Go to Math Central