Why You Can’t Divide by Zero

This is a concept we learn pretty quickly but not all of us learn exactly why. The most I was told was that it just doesn’t work because you’re dividing by nothing, and that kind of wording made it sound complicated enough that I simply took it as all I would ever understand. Recently my calculus professor explained it to us in an incredibly simple way that made me question, yet again, why we aren’t taught these kinds of things back in elementary school.

So to start: Multiplication is basically a whole bunch of addition.

Say you have 2×5.
It’s basically 5+5 or 2+2+2+2+2

6+6+6+6+6+6+6 or 7+7+7+7+7+7
6 added seven times or 7 added six times.
That’s why we read it “six times seven.”

Division, of course, is just the opposite.
Division is just a whole bunch of subtraction.

12/4 is

What you’re doing is subtracting that number until you get 0. In this case you subtracted 4 3 times. Therefore, 12/4 = 3.

SO where does the zero issue come in?

12/0 is basically

… Wait let’s try that again.
Hmm maybe again.
Nope. Not getting anywhere.

THAT is why you can’t divide by zero. You can subtract 0 again and again and again but you just can’t get anywhere. It’s as simple as that.

So when people say “Oh crap that thing exploded, someone must have divided by zero!” they’re actually highly overestimating the complexity of that operation. All they’re really implicating is that some foolish person was busy trying to subtract nothing instead of monitoring the dangerous chemicals they were put in charge of.

Also the whole “In Soviet Russia, zero divides by you” thing – that’s perfectly fine. Zero can divide by you or anyone else it wants to.
0/you is basically

NOPE done it’s already 0 it took 0 times to get it to 0. That’s the answer. 0.

And that’s how zero and division work.

So to sum it all up: No internet, dividing by zero is not the destroyer of worlds or the creator of black holes. It’s just silly.


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