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Division Symbols

Date: 10/23/98 at 11:35:23
From: Sandra Elsea
Subject: Division (name of symbol)

What is the name of the symbol used in division problems written in 
this form? 

My students and I have looked in all the resources we have at our 
school and can't locate the information. I only remember that it has 
a particularly odd name. Can you help us out?

Date: 10/23/98 at 13:16:55
From: Doctor Peterson
Subject: Re: Division (name of symbol)

Hi, Sandra. As far as I have been able to search, no one has a real 
name for that symbol. My own feeling is that it is not so much a 
symbol as a tool for doing the calculation.

The other symbols for division do have names, and they're all odd:

   1 / 2    The slanted line in 1/2 is called a virgule or solidus.

   1 -:- 2  The division symbol that looks like a hyphen with dots 
            above and below, of which this is a poor approximation, is 
            called an obelus.

     1      The horizontal line used in a fraction is sometimes called
    ---     a vinculum, though that more properly applies to cases    
     2      where a line is made over something to hold it together, 
            as in a square root, or a repeating fraction. I just call 
            it a fraction bar.

You might be able to call the horizontal line in the division symbol a 
vinculum, but I don't think there is a name for the whole thing. In 
fact, in the following page about the history of symbols, it is not 
named, but drawn,  and the alternate text in the HTML calls it "a 
close parenthesis attached to a vinculum"!  See Jeff Miller's "Earliest 
Uses of Symbols of Operation":   

- Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum   
Associated Topics:
Elementary Definitions
Elementary Division
Middle School Definitions
Middle School Division

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