News & Updates
August 18, 2021
If you are currently studying integers in your math class, you may find that rational numbers are the next topic addressed by your teacher. They may ask the class “is zero a rational number?” Although you know the definition of a rational number, this question can stop you in your tracks.
Knowing basic properties regarding integers and rational numbers may seem like a one-time lesson in your mathematics career, but being able to fully comprehend the purpose and the rules of rational numbers can directly help you with other complicated math concepts. Instead of just thinking the old narrative that learning a math lesson will only pertain to your specific lesson, quizzes, and tests, truly understanding rational numbers can help you learn how to solve multi-step problems in the future.
In addition, learning rational numbers and mastering integers helps you to understand how these math concepts all relate to one another as you progress in your education. Learning the relationship between rational numbers makes mathematics easier to understand as a whole.
By using critical thinking skills to find answers to questions such as “is zero a rational number?”, you can help simplify complicated equations and find the solution.
First – what is a rational number?
Before you can determine if zero is a rational number, we need to brush up on your definition of rational numbers. A rational number is any number that can be presented as a over b, where b is not equal to zero. Like this:
Therefore, practically every fraction that you have worked with in the past can be defined as a rational number. The only condition is that the “bottom” number in the fraction – also known as the denominator – cannot be equal to zero. Therefore, all whole numbers are rational, since any rational whole number can be expressed as a fraction with 1 in the denominator slot.
But how can you identify rational numbers from irrational numbers? Irrational numbers are not able to follow the rule that it can be presented as a over b, where b is not equal to zero.
In this case, you might come across irrational numbers that look like the following:
When looking at a fraction, sometimes the numerator can be zero. This means that a can equal zero, but b is not equal to zero. For new learners, just seeing a zero in the equation can sometimes throw off their thought process. However, keep in mind that a rational number with zero as a numerator can easily be simplified as such:
Since the greatest common denominator between 0 and 12 is 0, you can simplify a rational number fraction with a zero in the numerator by dividing both integers by zero. If you see a fraction with zero in the numerator, the answer will ALWAYS be zero.
Examples of rational numbers
Some examples of rational numbers include ¼, ⅔, 0/1, 8/6, and so on. As you can see, one of the numbers included here was 0 over another number – this is considered a rational number since the denominator is either a positive or negative number and is not equal to zero.
Operations on rational numbers
Just because a number is a fraction or contains a zero within the fraction, this does not mean arithmetic operations are impossible. Arithmetic operations are the basic processes of functions you can use with integers, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
- With addition, you can add two fractional rational numbers by making the denominator the same value.
- When carrying out subtraction, make the denominator the same number before subtracting one rational number from the other one.
- In the case of multiplying two rational numbers, make sure you multiply both the numerator and the denominator of the rational numbers.
- When it comes to dividing a fraction, you must calculate the inverse of the rational number. In this process, switch the numerator and denominator.
- For example, 2/4 will then switch to 4/2. You can double-check your work by multiplying the two values together to see if they equal 1, with the equation being (2/4)x(4/2)=1.
What are irrational numbers?
There are clear differences between rational and irrational numbers. Now that you know rational numbers are any type of integer that can be expressed as a/b where b does not equal zero, you can narrow down all integers that do not follow this formula to be considered irrational numbers.
Rational numbers are either positive numbers, negative numbers, or equivalent to zero. However, irrational numbers cannot be written in the form of a/b, but must be written as a decimal.
One of the most common irrational numbers is Pi (), which has endless digits after the decimal point. If you have studied geometry in the past, you know that Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter – a number that comes out to approximately 3.14. However, this solution is just an approximation, but not accurate enough to be written as a fraction or classified as a rational number. Since the decimal digits of Pi are nearly infinite, you cannot use a simple fraction that represents Pi.
Furthermore, Euler’s number () is another irrational number that cannot be simplified or written as a fraction. This number is the base of natural logarithms and is an important concept used in the exponential function. Euler’s number is typically written as 2.718, but contains over 1 trillion digits in the decimal – making it impossible to compose in fractional form.
Another common irrational number is the Golden Ratio (), a ratio called “divine proportion”. This unique ratio is a common number that is found in various aspects of our life and culture, not just in mathematics. Appearing in paintings, artwork, sculptures, and buildings, the Golden Ratio is known for being aesthetically pleasing. This number is typically approximated as 1.618, but cannot be expressed in simple fraction form.
So – is zero a rational number?
Now that you know the difference between rational and irrational numbers, you may still be asking yourself – is zero a rational number? You know that zero cannot be the denominator of a rational number, since this would classify the rational function as undefined. However, zero can be the numerator in a fraction, which qualifies zero as an eligible rational number.
Since zero is an integer, it can be written as A in the formula A/B (ex: 0/1, 0/3, 0/6, etc.). Writing zero as the numerator over a positive or negative denominator confirms that zero can be considered a rational number (ex: 0/2, 0/-2, etc.).
Keep in mind that 0 cannot be used as a denominator in a rational number equation. If this was the case, any number divided by 0 would result in infinity – as we learned earlier, irrational numbers cannot be written as a fraction with integers as both the numerator and denominator. Any integer divided by 0 is an irrational number.
Why is it important to know if zero is a rational number?
If you are struggling in your math class and you have finally cracked the code to the rational vs. irrational number debate you might still be wondering how this will help you understand difficult math concepts.
Knowing that zero is a rational number can give you deeper insight as to how integers can be calculated and how they function within different equations. Being able to distinguish between rational and irrational numbers can help you understand more difficult concepts that you previously had a difficult time understanding.
Learning rational numbers, understanding how to interpret rational numbers, and identifying rational vs. irrational numbers can help students understand how to represent rational numbers when composing equations, how to determine which fractions are greater than others, and how to simplify rational numbers in fractional form.