Multiply and Divide With the Asterisk and Slash Keys

When using a computer, you usually don't have a multiplication or division symbol on your keyboard. To do basic mathematical functions, you use the asterisk and slash keys instead. Some apps, like Numbers, will even convert these to multiply and divide symbols. At other times you will still see those characters in your math equations.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Multiply and Divide With the Asterisk and Slash Keys.

If you do any kind of calculating on your Mac or any computer you probably already know that to indicate multiplication you use the asterisk on your keyboard. Shift 8 on American keyboards. For division use the slash which is on the same key as the question mark. For addition and subtraction those symbols are actually on the keyboard. You have to use the Shift for addition but the dash is the same thing that you use for subtraction.

But why an asterisk and a slash? Why not a times symbol, a multiplication symbol or sometimes a dot as mathematicians use for multiplication or a division symbol? Well the answer, of course, is because they're not on the keyboard. Most keyboards don't have these. Of course the earliest keyboards when computers were just starting were typewriter keyboards and they weren't on there as well. Those keyboards carried over so we still don't have division and multiplication on keyboards although some numeric keypads will have them.

But if you want to do those calculations like in Numbers here start a formula and you would type Shift and 8 on an American keyboard and actually instead of an asterisk you see I get a little multiplication symbol. So it actually converts it so at least you can visually see that you are multiplying. The same thing for division. You use the Slash and you get a little division symbol just to indicate what it is you're doing.

Now in other areas like say Spotlight it doesn't convert the symbol so you type an asterisk and you get an asterisk. But it does do the calculation. It even sticks with the asterisk there. The same thing with division. A Slash stays there but you get the answer.

In the calculator app you actually have a division and multiplication symbols right there that you can click with the mouse. But if you're going to type with the keyboard you actually need to type the asterisk and it looks like the multiplication key was pressed. The same thing for division. You can see it looks like the divided by symbol was pressed.

Even in the Terminal if you use bc to go into the calculator, then you have to use asterisk and slash. Perhaps the only time you don't need to use the asterisk or slash key for multiplication or division is if you're not using the keyboard at all. Like if you're using Siri. What's six times seven. The answer is 42.