Can You Have Zero in the Denominator?
From: Anonymous Subject: Math of course! :) Date: Mon, 07 Nov 1994 19:58:42 EST Hi! My name is Emma Stickgold -not matilda.. :) - and I have been asked to ask you a question. My math teacher, Steve Barkin at the Graham and Parks school in Cambridge, MA, and I are in the midst of an argument over whether any number can be placed over zero in a fraction. I know that when you take a fraction like 10/5, it equals 2, and 5 * 2 = 10, and that works out for all fractions where the numerator is larger than the denominator, but it doesn't work out for n/0. I know that you'll probably say that it isn't a legit. fraction, but... I still say that it is. :) Please send me your opinion ASAP... :) Yours, a seventh grader in the midst of an argument w/math teacher, Emma
Date: Mon, 7 Nov 1994 20:22:46 -0500 (EST) From: "Michael W. S. Morton" Hello Emma! I'm Mike, one of the Math Doctors here.... I can't really give you a great reason why you can't put 0 in the denominator of a fraction, but I'll give you something to think about while another Math Doctor comes up with a better answer!! Try thinking about this: what is: 10/1 = ? 10/.5 = ? 10/.1 = ? 10/.01 = ? 10/.00001 = ? 10/.0000000000001 = ? You can see that as the denominator becomes very small, the fraction becomes very large. As you approach 0 in the denominator, the fraction becomes HUGE! If the denominator was to equal 0, we might say that the fraction was INFINITE!! That is, it is bigger than ANY number you can think of! That is usually the reason I think of when I want to put 0 in the denominator of a fraction. If you don't understand that, or if you want a better explanation, please write back! -MORTON, Doctor of sorts
From: Anonymous Date: Sat, 23 Nov 1996 21:47:46 Subject: Idea on explaining something I noticed that one of your math doctors was having trouble explaining to a girl named Emma back in '94 why zero can't be the numerator or denominator in fraction. Well, if you're still looking for a good way to explain it, my math teacher uses the example "How many times can you throw nothing into no wastebaskets?" And of course the answer is as many times as you want. It's just not a real number. Hope I was of some help, Geri
Search the Dr. Math Library:
Ask Dr. MathTM
© 1994- The Math Forum at NCTM. All rights reserved.