Fractions, also called rational numbers, are numbers of the form , where a and b are integers (but b cannot be zero).
The bottom number is called the denominator. Think of it as the denomination: it tells you what size units you are talking about—fourths, fifths, or whatever.
The top number is the numerator. It tells you how many of those units you have. For example, if I have 3 quarters in my pocket, then I have three-fourths of a dollar. The denomination is quarters (fourths), and I have three of them: 3/4.
Ordinarily we think of fractions as being between zero and one, like 3/4 or 2/3. These are called proper fractions. In these fractions, the numerator is smaller than the denominator—but there is no reason why we can not have a numerator bigger than the denominator. Such fractions are called improper.
What does an improper fraction like 5/4 mean? Well, if we have 5 quarters of something then we have more than one whole of that something. In fact, we have one whole plus one more quarter (if you have 5 quarters in change, you have a dollar and a quarter).
Mixed Number Notation
One way of expressing the improper fraction 5/4 is as the mixed number , which is read as “one and one-fourth.” This notation is potentially confusing and is not advised in algebra.
One cause of confusion is that in algebra we use the convention that multiplication is implied when two quantities are written next to each other with no symbols in between. However, the mixed number notation implies addition, not multiplication. For example, means 1 plus one-quarter, and 3 1/2 = 3 + 1/2.
It is possible to do arithmetic with mixed numbers by treating the whole number parts and the fractional parts separately, but it is generally more convenient in algebra to always write improper fractions. When you encounter a problem with mixed numbers, the first thing you should do is convert them to improper fractions.
A. Multiply the integer part with the bottom of the fraction part.
B. Add the result to the top of the fraction.
The general formula is
Equivalent fractions are fractions that have the same value, for example
Although all these fractions are written differently, they all represent the same quantity. You can measure a half-cup of sugar or two quarter-cups of sugar, or even four eighth-cups of sugar, and you will still have the same amount of sugar.
A fraction can be converted into an equivalent fraction by multiplying it by a form of 1. The number 1 can be represented as a fraction because any number divided by itself is equal to 1 (remember that the fraction notation means the same thing as division). In other words,
Now if you multiply a number by 1 it does not change its value, so if we multiply a fraction by another fraction that is equal to 1, we will not be changing the value of the original fraction. For example,
In this case, 2/3 represents exactly the same quantity as 4/6, because all we did was to multiply 2/3 by the number 1, represented as the fraction 2/2.
Multiplying the numerator and denominator by the same number to produce an equivalent fraction is called building up the fraction.
Numerator and Denominator Have No Common Factors
1. Write out prime factorization of Numerator and Denominator
2. Cancel all common factors
This procedure is just the opposite of building up a fraction by multiplying it by a fraction equivalent to 1.
And reduce result if needed
If you don’t reduce the factors before multiplying, the answer will have to be reduced.
Remember that canceling always leaves a “1” behind, because you are really dividing the numerator and the denominator by the same number.
· If the denominators are not the same, make them the same by building up the fractions so that they both have a common denominator.
· The product of all the denominators is always a common denominator (but not necessarily the Least Common Denominator).
Least Common Denominator (LCD)
The smallest number that is evenly divisible by all the denominators
The LCD is the product of all the prime factors of all the denominators, each factor taken the greatest number of times that it appears in any single denominator.
Factor the denominators:
Note that the three only appears once, because it is only needed once to make either the 12 or the 15:
Now that you have found the LCD, multiply each fraction (top and bottom) by whatever is needed to build up the denominator to the LCD:
Then add the numerators and reduce if needed (using the LCD does not guarantee that you won’t have to reduce):