I can understand why many of us have a hard time accepting the fact that the value of zero factorial is equal to one. It comes across like an absurd statement that there’s no way it can be true. We have a common perception of zero for being notorious because there’s something about it that can make any number associated with it either vanish or misbehave. For instance, a large number such as 1,000 multiplied by zero becomes zero. It disappears! On the other hand, a nice number such as 5 divided by zero becomes undefined. It misbehaves. So it is okay to be skeptical why zero “suddenly” becomes one, a nice number, after treating it with some special operation.
There are other ways to show why the statement is true. For this one, we will use the definition of factorial itself. To be honest, with this method the justification is simple and requires little math.
Let n be a whole number, n! is defined as the product of factors including n itself and everything below it.
- The general formula of factorial can be written in fully expanded form as
- or in partially expanded form as
We know with absolute certainty that 1!=1, where n = 1. If we substitute that value of n into the second formula, we get
For the equation to be true, we must force the value of zero factorial to equal 1, and no other. Otherwise, 1!≠1 which is a contradiction.
So yes, 0! = 1 is correct because mathematicians agreed to define it that way (nothing more and nothing less) in order to be consistent with the rest of mathematics.