Apologies for the newbie question, but I am a bit confused about what exactly counts as a "simple operation" when working out the time complexity of an algorithm. In particular, why do we consider all operations to be equal?
Surely, dividing two very large numbers is more time-consuming than adding one to a number (as in each iteration of a for loop). Multiplication, for example, can consist of any number of small additions. So, instead of just adding them up shouldn't we be applying some kind of weight to each operation depending on the type of operation (addition, multiplication, etc) and the size of the numbers involved?
My problem is that I am being asked to prove that the complexity of my algorithm is $O(f)$ (for some function $f$) and I am not sure how to do this in a mathematically rigorous fashion because of the inherent vagueness in the definition of a "simple operation". So how would I go about this?