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One of the laws relating to number operations. In symbols, it is stated: a(b + c) = ab + ac. The monomial factor a is distributed, or separately applied, to each term of the polynomial factor b + c, resulting in the product ab + ac. It can also be stated in words: The result of first adding several numbers and then multiplying the sum by some number is the same as first multiplying each separately by the number and then adding the products. See alsoassociative law; commutative law.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on distributive law, visit Britannica.com.