Calculator usage: Sharp EL-520W: multiplication in the denominator

The tutor shares a recent discovery.

Imagine you want to calculate


The answer should be 1, of course: in a fraction, there are unwritten brackets around the numerator and around the denominator.

Unless you have a calculator that accepts up-and-down fraction input (such as a Sharp WriteView or a Casio Natural Display), your calculator needs to be told what’s in the numerator versus what’s in the denominator. Of course, this can be done using brackets: the written calculation


can safely be entered as


but typically not


In the last case, the calculator (including the Sharp EL-520W) will likely divide 8 by 2, then multiply by 4, giving 16.

However, the Sharp EL-520W seems to perceive


as meaning that the 4 is in the denominator: it gives the answer 1.

So, to the Sharp EL-520W, 8÷2×4 is not the same as 8÷2(4). Beware: not all calculators share this opinion. With the EL-520W, Sharp perhaps tries to anticipate the user’s intention rather than just taking the entry literally.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

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