Math CentralQuandaries & Queries


Question from jackie, a student:

128/(-16)/(-2) I was wondering if you can show me how to work this question out

Hi Jackie,

This question is ambiguous. I am not sure if it means

\[ \frac{ \left(\frac{128}{-16}\right) }{-2} = \frac{-8}{-2} = 4\]


\[\frac{128}{\left( \frac{-16}{-2} \right)} = \frac{128}{8} = 16.\]

No users of mathematics would ever write 128/(-16)(-2). They would write (128/(-16))(-2) or
128/((-16)(-2)). Mathematical expressions and mathematical notation is used to convey information in a clear and unambiguous way.

If this is a textbook problem then look carefully at the rules of precedence in the book. I expect the author wants you to calculate from left to right to get an answer of 4.


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