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The Obelus for Division

To help reinforce the idea that fractions are division expressions, one can follow the three easy steps below:

STEP 1: Use a pencil to write a fraction. Write a BIG fraction. Make sure it has a big thick bar separating the numerator and denominator. Don't write the numerator or denominator too close to the bar.

obelusfraction1

STEP 2: Draw a circle around the numerator. Then draw a circle around the denominator.

obelusfraction2

STEP 3: Fill in the circles with your pencil. And behold:

obelusfraction3

This handy-dandy symbol, which today indicates division, is referred to as an obelus.

In the late 15th century, division of two numbers was indicated by simply writing the dividend above the divisor. Later, the fraction bar was included between the numbers. Finally, the numbers were replaced by dots (Gullberg). And here we are.

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Joshua F.

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