A recent tweet revealed that the division symbol is actually a blank fraction.
That’s right. According to this Twitter user, the lowly division symbol is so much more than just a line and two dots.
Each of those dots is actually a stand-in for a number.
Obviously, people were pretty shaken up by the news.
Why didn’t our teachers tell us this?
What else don’t we know?!
You think you know everything there is to know about math, and then BAM! This happens.
The “blank fraction” explanation makes sense, but some people doubted its validity.
So, is it true?
Survey says: Yes! Here's an image showing the obelus's earliest use as division symbol:
Before that, it was used by editors of medieval manuscripts to mark lines that they were unsure about the validity of. For instance, you see a lot of obeluses in Homer to mark lines that old-timey editors doubted Homer actually wrote. In fact, the practice of making such marks in the margins of texts is called obelism.
But eventually, the obelus became the mathematical symbol for division we all know and love today.
Now you have a new fact to teach all of your friends!
But the scholarly facts didn’t stop there.
After Twitter learned about the obelus, they started sharing fun facts about other mathematical symbols…