Example 1: This is the kind of division you’ve been doing for years, positive numbers divided by positive numbers. It would look like this: 12/3 = 4. 12 is positive, 3 is positive, thus, 4 is positive. We know that 12 and 3 are both positive because there are no negative signs in front of them.
Rule 2: A positive number divided by a negative number gives you a negative number.
Example 2: This is new – for example, you might have 12/-3. The 12 is positive, but the 3 is negative, so our answer has to be negative. Thus, we divide the numbers as we normally would, and then put a negative sign in front of our answer. So, 12/-3 = -4. Please note that this also works when the negative number comes first and the positive number is second. For example, you may see it written -12/3 = -4, but don’t get confused. The combination of one positive and one negative number, no matter which order they come in, means your answer is going to be negative.
Rule 3: A negative number divided by a negative number gives you a positive number.
Example 3: This is also new—and doesn’t seem to make much sense, but it is a rule we have to follow when dividing negative numbers. So, for example, we may have the problem -12/-4. Both the 12 and the 4 are negative, so we know our answer is going to be positive. Therefore, -12/-4 = 3.
Dividing Positive and Negative Numbers Quiz
Here are a few problems for you to practice working with positive and negative numbers. Do them on your own, and then check them with these answers.