Quandaries and Queries


Can the sum of two or more whole numbers be less than any of those numbers? Just wondering ,

a dumb parent



Hi Kirk,

I have always used the term whole number to mean the non-negative integers; 0,1,2,3,... I think this is standard in schools in Canada where I live, and also in the US. I also know that some people use the term to mean the positive integers; 1, 2, 3,... In either of these cases the sum of two whole numbers can not be less than either of the numbers.

In preparing to answer your question I did an Internet search for whole number and found the following reference

whole number
1. A member of the set of positive integers and zero.
2. A positive integer.
3. An integer.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

The first two definitions are what I stated above, but the third definition includes negative integers as whole numbers. In this case

2 + (-1) = 1

which is less than 2.

If this is a question from school then I expect that the answer expected is no, the sum of two or more whole numbers can not be less than either of those numbers. If you have your child's text book you should check to see what definition is used.