associative law

associative law

Two closely related laws of number operations. In symbols, they are stated: a + (b + c) = (a + b) + c, and a(bc) = (ab)c. Stated in words: The terms or factors may be associated in any way desired and the result will be the same. This holds for the numbers generally encountered: positive and negative, integral and fractional, rational and irrational, real and imaginary. Exceptions occur (e.g., in nonassociative algebras and divergent infinite series). See also commutative law, distributive law.

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