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Dividing by Zero on a Calculator or Computer


Date: 2/12/96 at 23:27:23
Subject: Dividing by 0
From: JASON HARMON

Whenever I try to divide a number by 0, I get an error on both 
my computer and calculator. Please explain to me why this can't 
be done. 

Thank you in advance,
Jason


Date: 2/13/96 at 16:39:56
From: Doctor Ethan
Subject: Re: Dividing by 0

Hi Jason,

	Here's a little experiment for you to try on your calculator.  
Observe the output when you try the following set of calculations:

1/1
1/.1
1/.01
1/.001
1/.0001
1/.00001
etc... until your calculator can't go any further or you get tired.

You should notice that the answers continue getting larger and 
larger. Another way of thinking of it is to imagine filling a box 
with apples. Say a box can fit 100 apples.  Now try filling it with 
apples that are  half the size of these apples.  You can put 200 in 
the box.  Now imagine a special, magic apple that takes up no 
room at all.  How many can you put in the box?

Well, the answer is... there is no answer!  That is why mathematicians 
refer to numbers which are divided by 0 as "undefined."  Some 
people tend to think of them as being infinite, but this isn't exactly 
true.   There simply is no answer.

I hope this helped answer your question.

-Doctor Ethan,  The Math Forum

    
Associated Topics:
High School Calculators, Computers

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