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Q&A #3893

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Dividing by zero

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From: Richard Askey

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2001012312:46:23
Subject: Re: Zero divided by zero (indeterminate form).

About figuring out what 0/0 is, that is what differential calculus is about. Yes, it is necessary to understand this if you want to really understand graphing, especially curves with cusps. About n/0 when n is not zero, first ask the students what a/b means when b is not zero. Among other things, this is c when b*c=a. Then ask the students what number c gives 0*c=a? Clearly, there is no such number, so n/0 is not defined. It is better to say it is not defined than to say it is infinite. When you get to graphing, and you graph y=1/x, this graph is not defined when x=0, but becomes arbitrarily large when x>0 goes to 0. Dick Askey

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