Before we give the formal definition of how to multiply two matrices, we will discuss an example from a real life situation. Consider a city with two kinds of population: the inner city population and the suburb population. We assume that every year 40% of the inner city population moves to the suburbs, while 30% of the suburb population moves to the inner part of the city. Let *I* (resp. *S*) be the initial population of the inner city (resp. the suburban area). So after one year, the population of the inner part is

0.6 *I* + 0.3 *S*

while the population of the suburbs is

0.4 *I* + 0.7 *S*

After two years, the population of the inner city is

0.6 (0.6 *I* + 0.3 *S*) + 0.3 (0.4 *I* + 0.7 *S*)

and the suburban population is given by

0.4 (0.6 *I* + 0.3 *S*) + 0.7(0.4 *I* + 0.7 *S*)

Is there a nice way of representing the two populations after a certain number of years? Let us show how matrices may be helpful to answer this question. Let us represent the two populations in one table (meaning a column object with two entries):

So after one year the table which gives the two populations is

If we consider the following rule (

then the populations after one year are given by the formula

After two years the populations are

Combining this formula with the above result, we get

In other words, we have

In fact, we do not need to have two matrices of the same size to multiply them. Above, we did multiply a (2x2) matrix with a (2x1) matrix (which gave a (2x1) matrix). In fact, the general rule says that in order to perform the multiplication

Remember that though we were able to perform the above multiplication, it is not possible to perform the multiplication

So we have to be very careful about multiplying matrices. Sentences like "multiply the two matrices

We have

and

So what is the conclusion behind this example? The matrix multiplication is not commutative, the order in which matrices are multiplied is important. In fact, this little setback is a major problem in playing around with matrices. This is something that you must always be careful with. Let us show you another setback. We have

the product of two non-zero matrices may be equal to the zero-matrix.

More on the multiplication of matrices, may be found in the next page.

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**Author**: M.A. Khamsi

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