# Multiplication in Permutation Groups Written in Cyclic Notation

I didn’t find any good explanation how to perform multiplication on permutation group written in cyclic notation. For example, if

then why does $ab=(1\,3\,5\,6)$ and $ac=(1\,6\,5\,2)(3\,4)$?

You are thinking of the permutations as functions, so when you write “$ab$“, you mean that you perform the permutation $b$ first, and the permutation $a$ second.

Here’s one way to do it: write the disjoint cycle expressions for both $a$ and $b$, in the given order:

Now, moving from right to left, see what happens to each number in each cycle.

For instance, start with $1$, so we write $1$ down:

The first cycle, $(2,5,6)$, does nothing to $1$, so it stays $1$. Then the next cycle, $(1,3,5,2)$, sends $1$ to $3$. So, in total, $1$ is sent to $3$. We write

Now consider $3$. The first cycle, $(2,5,6)$, does nothing to $3$. The second maps $3$ to $5$. So the product maps $3$ to $5$. So now we have

Now $5$. The first cycle, $(2,5,6)$, sends $5$ to $6$; the second cycle does nothing to $6$, so in total, $5$ is sent to $6$. So for the product we now have

Next, what happens to $6$? The first cycle sends $6$ to $2$; and then the next cycle sends $2$ to $1$. So $6$ is sent to $1$, and because we started out with $1$, this now closes the cycle we have; thus, we also close the bracket. So the product so far is

Now we consider the “next” number that hasn’t been described yet, $2$. The first cycle, $(2,5,6)$, sends $2$ to $5$; then we check what the next cycle does to $5$, which is that it sends it back to $2$. So $2$ maps to $2$, and since we started out with $2$, it again closes the cycle. So now we have

Finally we check what happens $4$, as it’s the remaining number: $(2,5,6)$ fixes $4$ (it doesn’t do anything to it – it remains as it is), as does $(1,3,5,2)$, so $4$ is overall fixed. So now finally we have:

It’s similar with $ac$. Here we have:

First consider $1$: the first cycle maps it to $6$, the second cycle fixes $6$. So $1\mapsto 6$. Then $6$ is sent to $3$ by the first cycle, and $3$ to $5$ by the second cycle (reading right to left, remember), so $6\mapsto 5$. Then $5$ is fixed by the first cycle and sent to $2$ by the second cycle, so $5\mapsto 2$. Then $2$ is fixed by the first cycle and sent to $1$ by the second, which means $2\mapsto 1$, closing the cycle: we have $(1,6,5,2)$. The next number not already covered is $3$; $3$ is mapped to $4$ by the first cycle (by $b$), and $4$ is fixed by $a$, so $3\mapsto 4$. Then $4$ is sent to $1$ by the first cycle, and $1$ is sent to $3$ by the second cycle, so this closes this second cycle as $(3,4)$. Putting the two together we get

as given.