Divide by 0 Undefined?Date: 9/10/96 at 3:9:16 From: Anonymous Subject: Divide by 0 Undefined? When something is divided by 0, why is the answer undefined? Date: 9/10/96 at 15:25:36 From: Doctor Robert Subject: Re: Divide by 0 Undefined? The reason is related to the associated multiplication question. If you divide 6 by 3 the answer is 2 because 2 times 3 IS 6. If you divide 6 by zero, then you are asking the question, "What number times zero gives 6?" The answer to that one, of course, is no number, for we know that zero times any real number is zero not 6. So we say that division by zero is undefined, for it is not consistent with division by other numbers. -Doctor Robert, The Math Forum Check out our web site! http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ Date: 9/10/96 at 20:6:47 From: Doctor Tom Subject: Re: Divide by 0 Undefined? It's because there's just no sensible way to define it. For example, we could say that 1/0 = 5. But there's a rule in arithmetic that a(b/a) = b, and if 1/0 = 5, 0(1/0) = 0*5 = 0 doesn't work, so you could never use the rule. If you changed every rule to specifically say that it doesn't work for zero in the denominator, what's the point of making 1/0 = 5 in the first place? You can't use any rules on it. But maybe you're thinking of saying that 1/0 = infinity. Well then, what's "infinity"? How does it work in all the other equations? Does infinity - infinity = 0? Does 1 + infinity = infinity? If so, the associative rule doesn't work, since (a+b)+c = a+(b+c) will not always work: 1 + (infinity - infinity) = 1 + 0 = 1, but (1 + infinity) - infinity = infinity - infinity = 0. You can try to make up a good set of rules, but it always leads to nonsense, so to avoid all the trouble we just say that it doesn't make sense to divide by zero. What happens if you add apples to oranges? It just doesn't make sense, so the easiest thing is just to say that it doesn't make sense, or, as a mathematician would say, "it is undefined". Maybe that's the best way to look at it. When, in mathematics, you see a statement like "operation XYZ is undefined", you should translate it in your head to "operation XYZ doesn't make sense". -Doctor Tom, The Math Forum Check out our web site! http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ |
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