Why Multiply Matrices?

With a little practice, it is not too difficult to multiply two matrices. Add WolframAlpha or a graphing calculator to the mix…and you should blaze through the simplest problems. But what good is matrix multiplication?

The Mundo Candy Company makes three types of chocolate candy: Cheery Cherry, Mucho Mocha, and Almond Delight. The company produces its products in San Diego, Mexico City, and Managua using two main ingredients: chocolate and sugar.
Each kilogram of Cheery Cherry requires .5 kg of sugar and .2 kg of chocolate, each kilogram of Mucho Mocha requires .4 kg of sugar and .3 kg of chocolate; and each kilogram of Almond Delight requires .3 kg of sugar and .3 kg of chocolate. The cost of 1 kg of sugar is $4 in San Diego, $2 in Mexico City, and $1 in Managua. The cost of 1 kg of chocolate is $3 in San Diego, $5 in Mexico City, and $7 in Managua.Put the information above in a matrix in such a way that when you multiply the matrices, you get a matrix representing the ingredient cost of producing each type of candy in each city.

Start by putting the information in a matrix. There are two ingredients and three types of candy so we need either a 2 x 3 or 3 x 2. Either will be fine as long as we label the rows and columns. I choose to use a 2 x 3:

Because the product has to correspond to candy type and cities, the product must be a 3 x 3 matrix. To get this from the 2 x 3 above, we’ll need to multiply a 3 x 2 times the 2 x 3. Based on the information above, the rows must correspond to cities and the columns to ingredients:

Now let’s carry out the multiplication:

To get the entry in the second row, first column of the product we need to multiply the second row in the first matrix by the first column in the second matrix and add the results:

Other entries are calculated similarly. Since we are multiplying amounts of ingredients times cost per amount, the product is a total cost. How should we label the product?


Using these labels we can locate the cost of any of the three candies in each of the three cities. For instance, the cost of Cheery Cherry is Mexico City would be $2.

Does WolframAlpha Do Matrices?

Is its possible to work with matrices in WolframAlpha? It is possible to do algebra like the one on the right, but entering the matrix is a bit unusual.

A matrix is entered between curly brackets in WolframAlpha (http://www.wolframalpha.com). Additionally, each row of the matrix is entered in curly brackets too. To carry out

you would need to enter the following on the WolframAlpha command line:

Notice that the matrix is in {} as is each row of the matrix.

You can also carry out matrix multiplication using curly brackets.