Rules of Dividing Negative Numbers

By Jennifer VanBaren
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Students learn the rules of adding and subtracting numbers at a very early age. When students master these concepts and move up to higher grades, they begin learning about the subject of multiplying and dividing negative numbers. Several rules must be learned and followed when working with negative numbers.

Two Positives

In division, one number, the dividend, is divided by another number. The number used to divide the dividend is called the divisor, and the answer to the division problem is called the quotient. The numbers being divided may have different signs -- either positive or negative. No matter the sign, however, the general rules for division remain the same. The sign of the answer is determined by the signs within the problem. The first rule is that if you divide two positive numbers, the answer will always be a positive number. For example, 6 divided by 2 equals 3.

Positive and Negative

If a problem consists of a positive number being divided by a negative number, the answer will always result in a negative number. For example, if a problem reads 10 divided by -5, the answer is -2. Follow normal division rules, as if both numbers were positive, and add a negative sign to the quotient for problems like this.

Negative and Positive

To calculate a problem that begins with a negative number and is being divided by a positive number, the answer will also always be negative. For example, -10 divided by 5 also equals -2. Multiply the quotient by the divisor to check your answer: -2 x 5 = -10.

Two Negatives

The rule used to divide two negative numbers is to also follow normal division principles. When you divide two negative numbers, the answer is always a positive number. For example, -4 divided by -2 equals 2. When both numbers are negative, the negatives cancel out, resulting in the answer always being a positive number.