division, fundamental operation in arithmetic; the inverse of multiplication. Division may be indicated by the symbol ÷, as in 15 ÷ 3, or simply by a fraction, 15/3. The number that is being divided, e.g. 15, is called the dividend and the number dividing into it, e.g. 3, the divisor. The result of division is called the quotient. If the dividend is an exact (integral) multiple of the divisor, then the division will be exact, the quotient being the factor by which the divisor must be multiplied to yield the dividend (in the above example the quotient 5 multiplied by the divisor 3 equals the dividend 15). If the dividend is not an exact multiple of the divisor there will be a remainder expressed as a fraction with the divisor as the denominator; e.g., 16/3 = 51/3, where 1/3 is the remainder. A division in which the divisor b is larger than the dividend a is simply indicated by the fraction a/b, with no actual operation being carried out. In terms of multiplication either of the symbols 1/ b or b - 1 is called the multiplicative inverse of b with the property that the product of a number and its inverse equals 1, or b · b - 1 = 1. The division of a by b is equivalent to the multiplication of a by the multiplicative inverse of b, i.e., a ÷ b = a · (1/ b ) = a · b - 1; for example, when a = 25 and b = 5, then 1/ b = 1/5 and 25 ÷ 5 = 25 · (1/5) = 5.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Mathematics