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# Why a negative times a negative is a positive

Use the distributive property to understand the products of negative numbers. Created by Sal Khan.

## Want to join the conversation?

• When you multiply a negative by a negative you get a positive, because the two negative signs are cancelled out. Why don't the positive signs cancel out?
(278 votes)
• Good question. The trouble might be that the word "cancel" is misleading. Perhaps a better way to think about it is that multiplying by a negative number switches the sign of the number being multiplied. While multiplying by a positive does not.
(185 votes)
• Why do we "distribute" the 5?
(64 votes)
• That is one of the principle properties of multiplication: it is distributive.
(96 votes)
• What will 5(-3-(-3)) be?
(42 votes)
• What I always do is count the amount of lines. Even means plus, uneven means minus.
- = 1 line so minus
+ = 2 lines so plus
+- = 3 lines so minus
++ = 4 lines so plus

So 5 - 3 -- 3 =
5 - 3 + 3 =
The -3 and +3 cancel eachother out. So your answer is 5.

Do note that I assume you left out the + after the 5, otherwise it's 5 * 0 = 0
(59 votes)
• I understand why negative multiplied by a negative is a positive, but why is a negative divided by a negative a positive?
(34 votes)
• If a positive thing happens to a positive person, then that is positive(good), like a good scientist winning the Nobel Prize.

If a negative thing happens to a positive person, like someone getting robbed that's negative (bad).

If a positive thing happens to a negative person, that's negative (bad) like a robber being decreed innocent.

If a negative thing happens to a negative person, that's positive(good) like a robber being caught.

Apply this into division and multiplication,

Positive/Positive= Positive

Negative/Positive=Negative

Positive/Negative=Negative

Negative/Negative=Positive

Same for multiplication.

Hope this helps!
(20 votes)
• At , Sal uses a dot to represent multiplying in the problem of "5 times 0 = 0," when right before that, he used an actual multiplication sign in the problem "5 times -3 = ?"

Why is that? Shouldn't he use the same sign always for multiplication? It is kind of confusing to me.

Any answer would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!
Gleam of Dawn
(10 votes)
• There are several ways to represent multiplication. The dot and the x mean the same thing, but in problems that involve a variable, especially if the the variable is x it can get confusing to use the x multiplication symbol, so the dot or parenthesis are typically used to avoid confusion with the variable x.
(14 votes)
• What is the Distributive Property?
(7 votes)
• The distributive property is the property of mathematics that states that a number multiplied by something in parenthesis can be distributed to everything between those parenthesis.

EXAMPLE:
3(x + 4) is the same as 3x + 12 when you distribute the 3 to the x and the 4.
(11 votes)
• upvote if you are watching this for energy points
(7 votes)
• No,I am learning
(3 votes)
• Neg x neg = pos. OK. But why can you multiply two negative numbers and get a positive number, but when you square a negative number the product is negative? Aren't you just multiplying that negative number by itself, another negative number? So shouldn't the product of squaring a negative number be positive? Khan Academy and my calculator both say "No." Help!
(6 votes)
• the negative numbers cancel each other out
(2 votes)
• Guys, i have a technical question!
One of the khan academy is not working for me which is given below.
option right on the obove of videos which say " You've watched 0% of this video" . this is not working for me, always remain same for me after watching full video it say the same thing " You've watched 0% of this video" . i just want to know that does it also happens with you guys or just only with me.
I will appreciat you answer.
(6 votes)
• Well, that might be the problem with your computer.. it works perfectly for me..
Just re watch the video.
(6 votes)
• i dont understand how - x - = P and p x p = P its still confusing....

P= positive
- = negative
(4 votes)
• A positive times a positive is positive because the positive value is being increased a positive number of times. For example, 5×3=15, since 5+5+5=15.

Let's visualize this on number lines. The 0 is where the 0 is, the left is negatives (decrease), and the right is positive (increase). Each individual arrow represents a step, the next whole number. Arrows pointing toward the right are positive, and arrows pointing toward the left are negative. (I meant to have the zeros lined up so they would be on top of each other, but for some reason, what I typed on the editor and the later displayed format are somewhat different; sorry about that.)

0. 0

1. 0>>>>>

2. 0>>>>>>>>>>

3. 0>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

A negative times a negative will equal a positive because what was originally negative has been reversed in direction. For example, -2×-4=8, where we take away 4 negative 2s.
There, so we have <<<<<<<< (negative 8). But since the 4 is negative, we are having them removed (or erased). If we start at -8, take away two more <s (though we still remain at a negative amount until the very end, the "strength of reduction" is getting "weaker".
0.<<<<<<<<0
1.<<<<<<<<0<< = <<<<<<0
2.<<<<<<<<0<<<< = <<<<0
3.<<<<<<<<0<<<<<< = <<0
4.<<<<<<<<0<<<<<<<< = 0
From the point that would be -8, we removed 4 negative 2s, which means we went in the right/positive direction by 8. Remember that a subtraction is basically the reduction/removal of something.

In a similar idea, if we had 9 minus 2, it will equal 7.
• <<0>>>>>>>>>
•    0>>>>>>>
The nine arrows toward the right say the line moved "forward" 9 steps. But the 2 arrows toward the left are saying that the line also moved "backwards" 2 steps. We finish with 7 if we only want the total (instead of subtraction).

By the same reasoning, this is also why - × P and P × - equal negatives.

For example, if we have -3×4, it will be
0.        0
1.            0<<<
2.            0<<<<<<
3.            0<<<<<<<<<
4.            0<<<<<<<<<<<<
5.<<<<<<<<<<<<0
At each step we were adding 3 more negative ones (which is why they were placed on the positive side first).

And if we have 5×-2
0.          0
1.      >>>>>0
2. >>>>>>>>>>0
3. <<<<<<<<<<0
We were to have two 5s, but because the 2 is negative, we are actually going toward the left. The negative 2 says we need to erase 5 >s twice, but we don't have any available, so end up with -10.

As a final example, let's start at another value not 0, but is positive.
7+(-2×3).
We already have a 7. At each step, the 7 arrows going toward the right are "pushed back" by two more arrows going toward the left.
0.        0>>>>>>> [we start at positive 7]
1.       0>>>>>>> << = 0>>>>>
2.     0>>>>>>> <<<< = 0>>>
3.   0>>>>>>> <<<<<< = 0>
[And end up with a total of positive 1]

Hope this explains most of the things, and helps you understand your problems
(9 votes)

## Video transcript

Lets say you are an Ancient Philosopher who was building up mathematics who was building mathematics from the ground up And you already have a reasonable of what a negative number could or should represent and you know how to add and subtract negative numbers But now you are faced with a conundrum What happens when you multiply negative numbers? Either when you multiply a positive number times a negative number Or when you multiply two negative numbers So, for example You aren't quite sure what should happen if you were to multiply (and im just picking two numbers where one is positive and one is negative) What would happen if you were to multiply 5 times negative 3 You're not quite sure about this just yet You're also not quite sure what would happen if you multiply two negative numbers. So lets say negative two times negative 6 This is also unclear to you What you do know, because you are a mathematician, is however you define this or whatever this should be It should hopefully be consistant with all of the other properties of mathematics that you already know And preferably all of the other properties of multiplication That would make you feel comfortable that you are getting this right. and later we can think about other ways to get the intuition for what these might be allowed you to actually make sense but to make this make consistent with the rest of mathematics that you know, you go into a little bit of a thought experiment you say, well, what should five times three plus negative three equal well you already have a philosophy of adding negative numbers or adding positive numbers to negative numbers, you know negative three is the opposite of three, but you add three to negative three you're going to get zero, so this is going to be equal to five times zero based on how you already thought about adding a negative number to a positive, and anything times zero is going to be zero, so this expression right over here should be zero but you see, I want to multiply positive and negative numbers to be consistent with this distributive property so I should should be able to distribute this five and for math to be consistent, and math should be consistent, I should get the exact same answer, so let's distribute this five so we get five times three is going to write out as five times three let me write this multiplication sign, not this dot five times three, so i distributed there plus five times negative three i'll do that in yellow, five times negative three and this whole thing we just said should be equal to zero it should be equal to zero, well five times three those are two positive numbers, we should know what should should be, that is going to be fifteen now we get this thing, fifteen plus times whatever five times negative three is needs to be equal to zero in order to be consistent with all the other mathematics that we know, well what plus fifteen is going to be equal to zero, well the opposite of fifteen in order for this to be true, in order for this to be consistent with all the other mathematics we know this right over here needs to be equal to negative fifteen until you say five times negative three in order to be consistent with all other mathematics we know, needs to be equal to negative fifteen. That's also consistent with the intuition of adding negative three repeatedly five times, now look above above us slightly higher so you can see ideas of multiplying two negatives, but we can do the exact same product experiment. We want whatever this answer to be consistent with the rest of mathematics that we know so we can do the same product experiment. What would negative two times six plus negative six to be equal to. Well, six plus negative six is going to be zero. Negative two times zero, anything times zero, needs to be equal to zero, but then once again, we can distribute negative two times six so we get negative two times six, then plus negative two times negative six plus negative two times negative six, then once again all of this is going to be equal to zero, now based on the five experiment we just did, we said "well this needs to be equal to negative twelve" or we can view this as going to the six twice left direction on the number line which gets us to negative twelve or you could say repeatedly adding negative twos times six would also get you to negative twelve and now we also saw over here we want to multiply a positive and a negative we got the negative so this could be, you know, going to be equal to negative twelve so we have negative twelve plus whatever this business is going to have to be equal to zero (repeated) in order to be consistent with all the other mathematics that we know and so what plus negative twelve is going to equal to be zero Well, positive twelve plus negative twelve is going to equal to zero so this needs to be equal to positive twelve in order to be consistent with all the other mathematics we know so there we get the idea that this is going positive twelve. I'll leave you there and I'll see if I can make a few other videos that can also give you a conceptual understanding of why these are true