Positron emission tomography was used to examine the cerebral networks underlying number comparison and multiplication in eight normal volunteers. Cerebral blood flow was measured within anatomical regions of interest defined in each subject using magnetic resonance imaging. Three conditions were used: rest with eyes closed, mental multiplication of pairs of arabic digits and larger-smaller comparison of the same pairs. Both multiplication and comparison activated the left and right lateral occipital cortices, the left precentral gyrus, and the supplementary motor area. Beyond these common activations, multiplication activated also the left and right inferior parietal gyri, the left fusiform and lingual gyri, and the right cuneus. Relative to comparison, multiplication also yielded superior activity in the left lenticular nucleus and in Brodmann's area 8, and induced a hemispheric asymmetry in the activation of the precentral and inferior frontal gyri. Conversely, relative to multiplication, comparison yielded superior activity in the right superior temporal gyrus, the left and right middle temporal gyri, the right superior frontal gyrus, and the right inferior frontal gyrus. These results underline the role of bilateral inferior parietal regions in number processing and suggest that multiplication and comparison may rest on partially distinct networks.