In mathematics, associativity is a property of some binary operations. It means that, within an expression containing two or more occurrences in a row of the same associative operator, the order in which the operations are performed does not matter as long as the sequence of the operands is not changed. That is, rearranging the parentheses in such an expression will not change its value. Consider for instance the equation
Even though the parentheses were rearranged (the left side requires adding 5 and 2 first, then adding 1 to the result, whereas the right side requires adding 2 and 1 first, then 5), the value of the expression was not altered. Since this holds true when performing addition on any real numbers, we say that "addition of real numbers is an associative operation."
is an example of associativity because the parentheses were changed (and consequently the order of operations during evaluation) while the operands 5, 2, and 1 appeared in the exact same order from left to right in the expression.
is not an example of associativity because the operand sequence changed when the 2 and 5 switched places.
- Dudek, W.A. (2001), "On some old problems in n-ary groups", Quasigroups and Related Systems 8: 15–36, http://www.quasigroups.eu/contents/contents8.php?m=trzeci .