Fraction (mathematics)



A fraction (from la, fractus, "broken") represents a part of a whole or, more generally, any number of equal parts. When spoken in everyday English, a fraction describes how many parts of a certain size there are, for example, one-half, eight-fifths, three-quarters. A ''common'', ''vulgar'', or ''simple'' fraction (examples: \tfrac and \tfrac) consists of a numerator, displayed above a line (or before a slash like ), and a non-zero denominator, displayed below (or after) that line. Numerators and denominators are also used in fractions that are not ''common'', including compound fractions, complex fractions, and mixed numerals. In positive common fractions, the numerator and denominator are
natural number In mathematics, the natural numbers are those numbers used for counting (as in "there are ''six'' coins on the table") and ordering (as in "this is the ''third'' largest city in the country"). Numbers used for counting are called ''Cardinal n ...
s. The numerator represents a number of equal parts, and the denominator indicates how many of those parts make up a unit or a whole. The denominator cannot be zero, because zero parts can never make up a whole. For example, in the fraction , the numerator 3 indicates that the fraction represents 3 equal parts, and the denominator 4 indicates that 4 parts make up a whole. The picture to the right illustrates of a cake. A common fraction is a numeral which represents a rational number. That same number can also be represented as a
decimal The decimal numeral system (also called the base-ten positional numeral system and denary or decanary) is the standard system for denoting integer and non-integer numbers. It is the extension to non-integer numbers of the Hindu–Arabic numeral ...
, a percent, or with a negative
exponent Exponentiation is a mathematics, mathematical operation (mathematics), operation, written as , involving two numbers, the ''Base (exponentiation), base'' and the ''exponent'' or ''power'' , and pronounced as " (raised) to the (power of) ". W ...
. For example, 0.01, 1%, and 10−2 are all equal to the fraction 1/100. An
integer An integer is the number zero (), a positive natural number (, , , etc.) or a negative integer with a minus sign (−1, −2, −3, etc.). The negative numbers are the additive inverses of the corresponding positive numbers. In the language of ...
can be thought of as having an implicit denominator of one (for example, 7 equals 7/1). Other uses for fractions are to represent ratios and division. Thus the fraction can also be used to represent the ratio 3:4 (the ratio of the part to the whole), and the division (three divided by four). The non-zero denominator rule, which applies when representing a division as a fraction, is an example of the rule that division by zero is undefined. We can also write negative fractions, which represent the opposite of a positive fraction. For example, if represents a half-dollar profit, then − represents a half-dollar loss. Because of the rules of division of signed numbers (which states in part that negative divided by positive is negative), −, and all represent the same fraction negative one-half. And because a negative divided by a negative produces a positive, represents positive one-half. In mathematics the set of all numbers that can be expressed in the form , where ''a'' and ''b'' are integers and ''b'' is not zero, is called the set of rational numbers and is represented by the symbol Q, which stands for quotient. A number is a rational number precisely when it can be written in that form (i.e., as a common fraction). However, the word ''fraction'' can also be used to describe mathematical expressions that are not rational numbers. Examples of these usages include algebraic fractions (quotients of algebraic expressions), and expressions that contain irrational numbers, such as \frac (see square root of 2) and (see proof that π is irrational).


In a fraction, the number of equal parts being described is the numerator (from la, numerātor, "counter" or "numberer"), and the type or variety of the parts is the denominator (from la, dēnōminātor, "thing that names or designates"). As an example, the fraction amounts to eight parts, each of which is of the type named "fifth". In terms of division, the numerator corresponds to the dividend, and the denominator corresponds to the
divisor In mathematics Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented i ...
. Informally, the numerator and denominator may be distinguished by placement alone, but in formal contexts they are usually separated by a fraction bar. The fraction bar may be horizontal (as in ), oblique (as in 2/5), or diagonal (as in ). These marks are respectively known as the horizontal bar; the virgule, slash ( US), or
stroke A stroke is a disease, medical condition in which poor cerebral circulation, blood flow to the brain causes cell death. There are two main types of stroke: brain ischemia, ischemic, due to lack of blood flow, and intracranial hemorrhage, hemorr ...
( UK); and the fraction bar, solidus, or fraction slash. In
typography Typography is the art and technique of typesetting, arranging type to make written language legibility, legible, readability, readable and beauty, appealing when displayed. The arrangement of type involves selecting typefaces, Point (typogra ...
, fractions stacked vertically are also known as " en" or " nut fractions", and diagonal ones as " em" or "mutton fractions", based on whether a fraction with a single-digit numerator and denominator occupies the proportion of a narrow ''en'' square, or a wider ''em'' square.. In traditional typefounding, a piece of type bearing a complete fraction (e.g. ) was known as a "case fraction", while those representing only part of fraction were called "piece fractions". The denominators of English fractions are generally expressed as ordinal numbers, in the plural if the numerator is not 1. (For example, and are both read as a number of "fifths".) Exceptions include the denominator 2, which is always read "half" or "halves", the denominator 4, which may be alternatively expressed as "quarter"/"quarters" or as "fourth"/"fourths", and the denominator 100, which may be alternatively expressed as "hundredth"/"hundredths" or " percent". When the denominator is 1, it may be expressed in terms of "wholes" but is more commonly ignored, with the numerator read out as a whole number. For example, may be described as "three wholes", or simply as "three". When the numerator is 1, it may be omitted (as in "a tenth" or "each quarter"). The entire fraction may be expressed as a single composition, in which case it is hyphenated, or as a number of fractions with a numerator of one, in which case they are not. (For example, "two-fifths" is the fraction and "two fifths" is the same fraction understood as 2 instances of .) Fractions should always be hyphenated when used as adjectives. Alternatively, a fraction may be described by reading it out as the numerator "over" the denominator, with the denominator expressed as a
cardinal number In mathematics Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented ...
. (For example, may also be expressed as "three over one".) The term "over" is used even in the case of solidus fractions, where the numbers are placed left and right of a slash mark. (For example, 1/2 may be read "one-half", "one half", or "one over two".) Fractions with large denominators that are ''not'' powers of ten are often rendered in this fashion (e.g., as "one over one hundred seventeen"), while those with denominators divisible by ten are typically read in the normal ordinal fashion (e.g., as "six-millionths", "six millionths", or "six one-millionths").

Forms of fractions

Simple, common, or vulgar fractions

A simple fraction (also known as a common fraction or vulgar fraction, where vulgar is Latin for "common") is a rational number written as ''a''/''b'' or \tfrac, where ''a'' and ''b'' are both integers. As with other fractions, the denominator (''b'') cannot be zero. Examples include \tfrac, -\tfrac, \tfrac, and \tfrac. The term was originally used to distinguish this type of fraction from the sexagesimal fraction used in astronomy. ''Common fractions'' can be positive or negative, and they can be proper or improper (see below). Compound fractions, complex fractions, mixed numerals, and decimals (see below) are not ''common fractions;'' though, unless irrational, they can be evaluated to a common fraction. * A unit fraction is a common fraction with a numerator of 1 (e.g., \tfrac). Unit fractions can also be expressed using negative exponents, as in 2−1, which represents 1/2, and 2−2, which represents 1/(22) or 1/4. * A dyadic fraction is a common fraction in which the denominator is a
power of two A power of two is a number of the form where is an integer, that is, the result of exponentiation with number 2, two as the Base (exponentiation), base and integer  as the exponent. In a context where only integers are considered, is re ...
, e.g. \tfrac=\tfrac. In Unicode, precomposed fraction characters are in the Number Forms block.

Proper and improper fractions

Common fractions can be classified as either proper or improper. When the numerator and the denominator are both positive, the fraction is called proper if the numerator is less than the denominator, and improper otherwise. The concept of an "improper fraction" is a late development, with the terminology deriving from the fact that "fraction" means "a piece", so a proper fraction must be less than 1. This was explained in the 17th century textbook '' The Ground of Arts''. In general, a common fraction is said to be a proper fraction, if the
absolute value In mathematics, the absolute value or modulus of a real number x, is the non-negative value without regard to its sign (mathematics), sign. Namely, , x, =x if is a positive number, and , x, =-x if x is negative number, negative (in which cas ...
of the fraction is strictly less than one—that is, if the fraction is greater than −1 and less than 1. It is said to be an improper fraction, or sometimes top-heavy fraction, if the absolute value of the fraction is greater than or equal to 1. Examples of proper fractions are 2/3, −3/4, and 4/9, whereas examples of improper fractions are 9/4, −4/3, and 3/3.

Reciprocals and the "invisible denominator"

The reciprocal of a fraction is another fraction with the numerator and denominator exchanged. The reciprocal of \tfrac, for instance, is \tfrac. The product of a fraction and its reciprocal is 1, hence the reciprocal is the multiplicative inverse of a fraction. The reciprocal of a proper fraction is improper, and the reciprocal of an improper fraction not equal to 1 (that is, numerator and denominator are not equal) is a proper fraction. When the numerator and denominator of a fraction are equal (for example, \tfrac), its value is 1, and the fraction therefore is improper. Its reciprocal is identical and hence also equal to 1 and improper. Any integer can be written as a fraction with the number one as denominator. For example, 17 can be written as \tfrac, where 1 is sometimes referred to as the ''invisible denominator''. Therefore, every fraction or integer, except for zero, has a reciprocal. For example. the reciprocal of 17 is \tfrac.


A ratio is a relationship between two or more numbers that can be sometimes expressed as a fraction. Typically, a number of items are grouped and compared in a ratio, specifying numerically the relationship between each group. Ratios are expressed as "group 1 to group 2 ... to group ''n''". For example, if a car lot had 12 vehicles, of which * 2 are white, * 6 are red, and * 4 are yellow, then the ratio of red to white to yellow cars is 6 to 2 to 4. The ratio of yellow cars to white cars is 4 to 2 and may be expressed as 4:2 or 2:1. A ratio is often converted to a fraction when it is expressed as a ratio to the whole. In the above example, the ratio of yellow cars to all the cars on the lot is 4:12 or 1:3. We can convert these ratios to a fraction, and say that of the cars or of the cars in the lot are yellow. Therefore, if a person randomly chose one car on the lot, then there is a one in three chance or probability that it would be yellow.

Decimal fractions and percentages

A decimal fraction is a fraction whose denominator is not given explicitly, but is understood to be an integer power of ten. Decimal fractions are commonly expressed using decimal notation in which the implied denominator is determined by the number of digits to the right of a
decimal separator A decimal separator is a symbol used to separate the integer part from the fractional part of a number written in decimal form (e.g., "." in 12.45). Different countries officially designate different symbols for use as the separator. The choi ...
, the appearance of which (e.g., a period, an interpunct (·), a comma) depends on the locale (for examples, see
decimal separator A decimal separator is a symbol used to separate the integer part from the fractional part of a number written in decimal form (e.g., "." in 12.45). Different countries officially designate different symbols for use as the separator. The choi ...
). Thus, for 0.75 the numerator is 75 and the implied denominator is 10 to the second power, namely, 100, because there are two digits to the right of the decimal separator. In decimal numbers greater than 1 (such as 3.75), the fractional part of the number is expressed by the digits to the right of the decimal (with a value of 0.75 in this case). 3.75 can be written either as an improper fraction, 375/100, or as a mixed number, 3\tfrac. Decimal fractions can also be expressed using scientific notation with negative exponents, such as , which represents 0.0000006023. The represents a denominator of . Dividing by moves the decimal point 7 places to the left. Decimal fractions with infinitely many digits to the right of the decimal separator represent an infinite series. For example, = 0.333... represents the infinite series 3/10 + 3/100 + 3/1000 + .... Another kind of fraction is the percentage (from la, per centum, meaning "per hundred", represented by the symbol %), in which the implied denominator is always 100. Thus, 51% means 51/100. Percentages greater than 100 or less than zero are treated in the same way, e.g. 311% equals 311/100, and −27% equals −27/100. The related concept of '' permille'' or ''parts per thousand'' (ppt) has an implied denominator of 1000, while the more general parts-per notation, as in 75 ''parts per million'' (ppm), means that the proportion is 75/1,000,000. Whether common fractions or decimal fractions are used is often a matter of taste and context. Common fractions are used most often when the denominator is relatively small. By mental calculation, it is easier to multiply 16 by 3/16 than to do the same calculation using the fraction's decimal equivalent (0.1875). And it is more accurate to multiply 15 by 1/3, for example, than it is to multiply 15 by any decimal approximation of one third. Monetary values are commonly expressed as decimal fractions with denominator 100, i.e., with two decimals, for example $3.75. However, as noted above, in pre-decimal British currency, shillings and pence were often given the form (but not the meaning) of a fraction, as, for example, "3/6" (read "three and six") meaning 3 shillings and 6 pence, and having no relationship to the fraction 3/6.

Mixed numbers

A mixed numeral (also called a ''mixed fraction'' or ''mixed number'') is a traditional denotation of the sum of a non-zero integer and a proper fraction (having the same sign). It is used primarily in measurement: 2\tfracinches, for example. Scientific measurements almost invariably use decimal notation rather than mixed numbers. The sum can be implied without the use of a visible operator such as the appropriate "+". For example, in referring to two entire cakes and three quarters of another cake, the numerals denoting the integer part and the fractional part of the cakes can be written next to each other as 2\tfracinstead of the unambiguous notation 2+\tfrac. Negative mixed numerals, as in -2\tfrac, are treated like \scriptstyle -\left(2+\frac\right). Any such sum of a ''whole'' plus a ''part'' can be converted to an improper fraction by applying the rules of adding unlike quantities. This tradition is, formally, in conflict with the notation in algebra where adjacent symbols, without an explicit infix operator, denote a product. In the expression 2x, the "understood" operation is multiplication. If is replaced by, for example, the fraction \tfrac, the "understood" multiplication needs to be replaced by explicit multiplication, to avoid the appearance of a mixed number. When multiplication is intended, 2 \tfrac may be written as : 2 \cdot \frac,\quad or \quad 2 \times \frac,\quad or \quad 2 \left(\frac\right),\;\ldots An improper fraction can be converted to a mixed number as follows: # Using Euclidean division (division with remainder), divide the numerator by the denominator. In the example, \tfrac, divide 11 by 4. 11 ÷ 4 = 2 remainder 3. # The quotient (without the remainder) becomes the whole number part of the mixed number. The remainder becomes the numerator of the fractional part. In the example, 2 is the whole number part and 3 is the numerator of the fractional part. # The new denominator is the same as the denominator of the improper fraction. In the example, it is 4. Thus, \tfrac =2\tfrac.

Historical notions

Egyptian fraction

An Egyptian fraction is the sum of distinct positive unit fractions, for example \tfrac+\tfrac. This definition derives from the fact that the
ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization in Northeast Africa situated in the Nile Valley. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100Anno Domini, BC (according to conventional Egyptian chronology) with the ...
ians expressed all fractions except \tfrac, \tfrac and \tfrac in this manner. Every positive rational number can be expanded as an Egyptian fraction. For example, \tfrac can be written as \tfrac + \tfrac + \tfrac. Any positive rational number can be written as a sum of unit fractions in infinitely many ways. Two ways to write \tfrac are \tfrac+\tfrac+\tfrac and \tfrac+\tfrac+\tfrac+\tfrac.

Complex and compound fractions

In a complex fraction, either the numerator, or the denominator, or both, is a fraction or a mixed number, corresponding to division of fractions. For example, \frac and \frac are complex fractions. To reduce a complex fraction to a simple fraction, treat the longest fraction line as representing division. For example: :\frac=\tfrac\times\tfrac=\tfrac :\frac = 12\tfrac \cdot \tfrac = \tfrac \cdot \tfrac = \tfrac \cdot \tfrac = \tfrac :\frac5=\tfrac\times\tfrac=\tfrac :\frac=8\times\tfrac=24. If, in a complex fraction, there is no unique way to tell which fraction lines takes precedence, then this expression is improperly formed, because of ambiguity. So 5/10/20/40 is not a valid mathematical expression, because of multiple possible interpretations, e.g. as :5/(10/(20/40)) = \frac = \frac\quad or as \quad (5/10)/(20/40) = \frac = 1 A compound fraction is a fraction of a fraction, or any number of fractions connected with the word ''of'', corresponding to multiplication of fractions. To reduce a compound fraction to a simple fraction, just carry out the multiplication (see the section on multiplication). For example, \tfrac of \tfrac is a compound fraction, corresponding to \tfrac \times \tfrac = \tfrac. The terms compound fraction and complex fraction are closely related and sometimes one is used as a synonym for the other. (For example, the compound fraction \tfrac \times \tfrac is equivalent to the complex fraction \tfrac.) Nevertheless, "complex fraction" and "compound fraction" may both be considered outdated and now used in no well-defined manner, partly even taken synonymously for each other or for mixed numerals. They have lost their meaning as technical terms and the attributes "complex" and "compound" tend to be used in their every day meaning of "consisting of parts".

Arithmetic with fractions

Like whole numbers, fractions obey the commutative, associative, and distributive laws, and the rule against division by zero.

Equivalent fractions

Multiplying the numerator and denominator of a fraction by the same (non-zero) number results in a fraction that is equivalent to the original fraction. This is true because for any non-zero number n, the fraction \tfrac equals 1. Therefore, multiplying by \tfrac is the same as multiplying by one, and any number multiplied by one has the same value as the original number. By way of an example, start with the fraction \tfrac. When the numerator and denominator are both multiplied by 2, the result is \tfrac, which has the same value (0.5) as \tfrac. To picture this visually, imagine cutting a cake into four pieces; two of the pieces together (\tfrac) make up half the cake (\tfrac).

Simplifying (reducing) fractions

Dividing the numerator and denominator of a fraction by the same non-zero number yields an equivalent fraction: if the numerator and the denominator of a fraction are both divisible by a number (called a factor) greater than 1, then the fraction can be reduced to an equivalent fraction with a smaller numerator and a smaller denominator. For example, if both the numerator and the denominator of the fraction \tfrac are divisible by c, then they can be written as a=cd and b=ce, and the fraction becomes \tfrac, which can be reduced by dividing both the numerator and denominator by c to give the reduced fraction \tfrac. If one takes for the
greatest common divisor In mathematics Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented in mo ...
of the numerator and the denominator, one gets the equivalent fraction whose numerator and denominator have the lowest
absolute value In mathematics, the absolute value or modulus of a real number x, is the non-negative value without regard to its sign (mathematics), sign. Namely, , x, =x if is a positive number, and , x, =-x if x is negative number, negative (in which cas ...
s. One says that the fraction has been reduced to its '' lowest terms''. If the numerator and the denominator do not share any factor greater than 1, the fraction is already reduced to its lowest terms, and it is said to be '' irreducible'', ''reduced'', or ''in simplest terms''. For example, \tfrac is not in lowest terms because both 3 and 9 can be exactly divided by 3. In contrast, \tfrac ''is'' in lowest terms—the only positive integer that goes into both 3 and 8 evenly is 1. Using these rules, we can show that \tfrac = \tfrac = \tfrac = \tfrac, for example. As another example, since the greatest common divisor of 63 and 462 is 21, the fraction \tfrac can be reduced to lowest terms by dividing the numerator and denominator by 21: :\tfrac = \tfrac= \tfrac The Euclidean algorithm gives a method for finding the greatest common divisor of any two integers.

Comparing fractions

Comparing fractions with the same positive denominator yields the same result as comparing the numerators: :\tfrac>\tfrac because , and the equal denominators 4 are positive. If the equal denominators are negative, then the opposite result of comparing the numerators holds for the fractions: :\tfrac<\tfrac \text \tfrac= \tfrac \text -3 < -2. If two positive fractions have the same numerator, then the fraction with the smaller denominator is the larger number. When a whole is divided into equal pieces, if fewer equal pieces are needed to make up the whole, then each piece must be larger. When two positive fractions have the same numerator, they represent the same number of parts, but in the fraction with the smaller denominator, the parts are larger. One way to compare fractions with different numerators and denominators is to find a common denominator. To compare \tfrac and \tfrac, these are converted to \tfrac and \tfrac (where the dot signifies multiplication and is an alternative symbol to ×). Then ''bd'' is a common denominator and the numerators ''ad'' and ''bc'' can be compared. It is not necessary to determine the value of the common denominator to compare fractions – one can just compare ''ad'' and ''bc'', without evaluating ''bd'', e.g., comparing \tfrac ? \tfrac gives \tfrac>\tfrac. For the more laborious question \tfrac ? \tfrac, multiply top and bottom of each fraction by the denominator of the other fraction, to get a common denominator, yielding \tfrac ? \tfrac. It is not necessary to calculate 18 \times 17 – only the numerators need to be compared. Since 5×17 (= 85) is greater than 4×18 (= 72), the result of comparing is \tfrac>\tfrac. Because every negative number, including negative fractions, is less than zero, and every positive number, including positive fractions, is greater than zero, it follows that any negative fraction is less than any positive fraction. This allows, together with the above rules, to compare all possible fractions.


The first rule of addition is that only like quantities can be added; for example, various quantities of quarters. Unlike quantities, such as adding thirds to quarters, must first be converted to like quantities as described below: Imagine a pocket containing two quarters, and another pocket containing three quarters; in total, there are five quarters. Since four quarters is equivalent to one (dollar), this can be represented as follows: :\tfrac24+\tfrac34=\tfrac54=1\tfrac14.

Adding unlike quantities

To add fractions containing unlike quantities (e.g. quarters and thirds), it is necessary to convert all amounts to like quantities. It is easy to work out the chosen type of fraction to convert to; simply multiply together the two denominators (bottom number) of each fraction. In case of an integer number apply the invisible denominator 1. For adding quarters to thirds, both types of fraction are converted to twelfths, thus: : \frac14\ + \frac13=\frac\ + \frac=\frac3\ + \frac4=\frac7. Consider adding the following two quantities: :\frac35+\frac23 First, convert \tfrac35 into fifteenths by multiplying both the numerator and denominator by three: \tfrac35\times\tfrac33=\tfrac9. Since \tfrac33 equals 1, multiplication by \tfrac33 does not change the value of the fraction. Second, convert \tfrac23 into fifteenths by multiplying both the numerator and denominator by five: \tfrac23\times\tfrac55=\tfrac. Now it can be seen that: :\frac35+\frac23 is equivalent to: :\frac9+\frac=\frac=1\frac4 This method can be expressed algebraically: :\frac + \frac = \frac This algebraic method always works, thereby guaranteeing that the sum of simple fractions is always again a simple fraction. However, if the single denominators contain a common factor, a smaller denominator than the product of these can be used. For example, when adding \tfrac and \tfrac the single denominators have a common factor 2, and therefore, instead of the denominator 24 (4 × 6), the halved denominator 12 may be used, not only reducing the denominator in the result, but also the factors in the numerator. :\begin \frac34+\frac56 &= \frac+\frac=\frac + \frac&=\frac\\ &=\frac+\frac =\frac + \frac&=\frac \end The smallest possible denominator is given by the least common multiple of the single denominators, which results from dividing the rote multiple by all common factors of the single denominators. This is called the least common denominator.


The process for subtracting fractions is, in essence, the same as that of adding them: find a common denominator, and change each fraction to an equivalent fraction with the chosen common denominator. The resulting fraction will have that denominator, and its numerator will be the result of subtracting the numerators of the original fractions. For instance, :\tfrac23-\tfrac12=\tfrac46-\tfrac36=\tfrac16


Multiplying a fraction by another fraction

To multiply fractions, multiply the numerators and multiply the denominators. Thus: :\frac \times \frac = \frac To explain the process, consider one third of one quarter. Using the example of a cake, if three small slices of equal size make up a quarter, and four quarters make up a whole, twelve of these small, equal slices make up a whole. Therefore, a third of a quarter is a twelfth. Now consider the numerators. The first fraction, two thirds, is twice as large as one third. Since one third of a quarter is one twelfth, two thirds of a quarter is two twelfth. The second fraction, three quarters, is three times as large as one quarter, so two thirds of three quarters is three times as large as two thirds of one quarter. Thus two thirds times three quarters is six twelfths. A short cut for multiplying fractions is called "cancellation". Effectively the answer is reduced to lowest terms during multiplication. For example: :\frac \times \frac = \frac \times \frac = \frac \times \frac = \frac A two is a common factor in both the numerator of the left fraction and the denominator of the right and is divided out of both. Three is a common factor of the left denominator and right numerator and is divided out of both.

Multiplying a fraction by a whole number

Since a whole number can be rewritten as itself divided by 1, normal fraction multiplication rules can still apply. :6 \times \tfrac = \tfrac \times \tfrac = \tfrac This method works because the fraction 6/1 means six equal parts, each one of which is a whole.

Multiplying mixed numbers

When multiplying mixed numbers, it is considered preferable to convert the mixed number into an improper fraction. For example: :3 \times 2\frac = 3 \times \left (\frac + \frac \right ) = 3 \times \frac = \frac = 8\frac In other words, 2\tfrac is the same as \tfrac + \tfrac, making 11 quarters in total (because 2 cakes, each split into quarters makes 8 quarters total) and 33 quarters is 8\tfrac, since 8 cakes, each made of quarters, is 32 quarters in total.


To divide a fraction by a whole number, you may either divide the numerator by the number, if it goes evenly into the numerator, or multiply the denominator by the number. For example, \tfrac \div 5 equals \tfrac and also equals \tfrac = \tfrac, which reduces to \tfrac. To divide a number by a fraction, multiply that number by the reciprocal of that fraction. Thus, \tfrac \div \tfrac = \tfrac \times \tfrac = \tfrac = \tfrac.

Converting between decimals and fractions

To change a common fraction to a decimal, do a long division of the decimal representations of the numerator by the denominator (this is idiomatically also phrased as "divide the denominator into the numerator"), and round the answer to the desired accuracy. For example, to change to a decimal, divide by (" into "), to obtain . To change to a decimal, divide by (" into "), and stop when the desired accuracy is obtained, e.g., at decimals with . The fraction can be written exactly with two decimal digits, while the fraction cannot be written exactly as a decimal with a finite number of digits. To change a decimal to a fraction, write in the denominator a followed by as many zeroes as there are digits to the right of the decimal point, and write in the numerator all the digits of the original decimal, just omitting the decimal point. Thus 12.3456 = \tfrac.

Converting repeating decimals to fractions

Decimal numbers, while arguably more useful to work with when performing calculations, sometimes lack the precision that common fractions have. Sometimes an infinite repeating decimal is required to reach the same precision. Thus, it is often useful to convert repeating decimals into fractions. A conventional way to indicate a repeating decimal is to place a bar (known as a vinculum) over the digits that repeat, for example = 0.789789789... For repeating patterns that begin immediately after the decimal point, the result of the conversion is the fraction with the pattern as a numerator, and the same number of nines as a denominator. For example: : = 5/9 : = 62/99 : = 264/999 : = 6291/9999 If
leading zero A leading zero is any 0 (number), 0 numerical digit, digit that comes before the first nonzero digit in a number string in positional notation.. For example, James Bond's famous identifier, 007, has two leading zeros. Any zeroes appearing to the le ...
s precede the pattern, the nines are suffixed by the same number of trailing zeros: : = 5/90 : = 392/999000 : = 12/9900 If a non-repeating set of decimals precede the pattern (such as ), one may write the number as the sum of the non-repeating and repeating parts, respectively: :0.1523 + Then, convert both parts to fractions, and add them using the methods described above: :1523 / 10000 + 987 / 9990000 = 1522464 / 9990000 Alternatively, algebra can be used, such as below: # Let ''x'' = the repeating decimal: #: ''x'' = # Multiply both sides by the power of 10 just great enough (in this case 104) to move the decimal point just before the repeating part of the decimal number: #: 10,000''x'' = # Multiply both sides by the power of 10 (in this case 103) that is the same as the number of places that repeat: #: 10,000,000''x'' = # Subtract the two equations from each other (if ''a'' = ''b'' and ''c'' = ''d'', then ''a'' − ''c'' = ''b'' − ''d''): #: 10,000,000''x'' − 10,000''x'' = − # Continue the subtraction operation to clear the repeating decimal: #: 9,990,000''x'' = 1,523,987 − 1,523 #: 9,990,000''x'' = 1,522,464 # Divide both sides by 9,990,000 to represent ''x'' as a fraction #: ''x'' =

Fractions in abstract mathematics

In addition to being of great practical importance, fractions are also studied by mathematicians, who check that the rules for fractions given above are consistent and reliable. Mathematicians define a fraction as an ordered pair (a,b) of
integer An integer is the number zero (), a positive natural number (, , , etc.) or a negative integer with a minus sign (−1, −2, −3, etc.). The negative numbers are the additive inverses of the corresponding positive numbers. In the language of ...
s a and b \ne 0, for which the operations addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are defined as follows: :(a,b) + (c,d) = (ad+bc,bd) \, :(a,b) - (c,d) = (ad-bc,bd) \, :(a,b) \cdot (c,d) = (ac,bd) :(a,b) \div (c,d) = (ad,bc) \quad(\text c \ne 0) These definitions agree in every case with the definitions given above; only the notation is different. Alternatively, instead of defining subtraction and division as operations, the "inverse" fractions with respect to addition and multiplication might be defined as: :\begin -(a,b) &= (-a, b) & & \text \\ &&&\text (0,b) \text\\ (a,b)^ &= (b,a) & & \text a \ne 0, \\ &&&\text (b,b) \text. \end Furthermore, the relation, specified as :(a, b) \sim (c, d)\quad \iff \quad ad=bc, is an equivalence relation of fractions. Each fraction from one equivalence class may be considered as a representative for the whole class, and each whole class may be considered as one abstract fraction. This equivalence is preserved by the above defined operations, i.e., the results of operating on fractions are independent of the selection of representatives from their equivalence class. Formally, for addition of fractions :(a,b) \sim (a',b')\quad and \quad (c,d) \sim (c',d') \quad imply ::((a,b) + (c,d)) \sim ((a',b') + (c',d')) and similarly for the other operations. In the case of fractions of integers, the fractions with and coprime and are often taken as uniquely determined representatives for their ''equivalent'' fractions, which are considered to be the ''same'' rational number. This way the fractions of integers make up the field of the rational numbers. More generally, ''a'' and ''b'' may be elements of any integral domain ''R'', in which case a fraction is an element of the field of fractions of ''R''. For example,
polynomial In mathematics, a polynomial is an expression (mathematics), expression consisting of indeterminate (variable), indeterminates (also called variable (mathematics), variables) and coefficients, that involves only the operations of addition, subtrac ...
s in one indeterminate, with coefficients from some integral domain ''D'', are themselves an integral domain, call it ''P''. So for ''a'' and ''b'' elements of ''P'', the generated ''field of fractions'' is the field of rational fractions (also known as the field of rational functions).

Algebraic fractions

An algebraic fraction is the indicated quotient of two algebraic expressions. As with fractions of integers, the denominator of an algebraic fraction cannot be zero. Two examples of algebraic fractions are \frac and \frac. Algebraic fractions are subject to the same field properties as arithmetic fractions. If the numerator and the denominator are
polynomial In mathematics, a polynomial is an expression (mathematics), expression consisting of indeterminate (variable), indeterminates (also called variable (mathematics), variables) and coefficients, that involves only the operations of addition, subtrac ...
s, as in \frac, the algebraic fraction is called a ''rational fraction'' (or ''rational expression''). An ''irrational fraction'' is one that is not rational, as, for example, one that contains the variable under a fractional exponent or root, as in \frac. The terminology used to describe algebraic fractions is similar to that used for ordinary fractions. For example, an algebraic fraction is in lowest terms if the only factors common to the numerator and the denominator are 1 and −1. An algebraic fraction whose numerator or denominator, or both, contain a fraction, such as \frac, is called a complex fraction. The field of rational numbers is the field of fractions of the integers, while the integers themselves are not a field but rather an integral domain. Similarly, the rational fractions with coefficients in a field form the field of fractions of polynomials with coefficient in that field. Considering the rational fractions with real coefficients, radical expressions representing numbers, such as \textstyle \sqrt/2, are also rational fractions, as are a transcendental numbers such as \pi/2, since all of \sqrt,\pi, and 2 are
real number In mathematics, a real number is a number that can be used to measurement, measure a ''continuous'' one-dimensional quantity such as a distance, time, duration or temperature. Here, ''continuous'' means that values can have arbitrarily small var ...
s, and thus considered as coefficients. These same numbers, however, are not rational fractions with ''integer'' coefficients. The term partial fraction is used when decomposing rational fractions into sums of simpler fractions. For example, the rational fraction \frac can be decomposed as the sum of two fractions: \frac + \frac. This is useful for the computation of antiderivatives of rational functions (see partial fraction decomposition for more).

Radical expressions

A fraction may also contain radicals in the numerator or the denominator. If the denominator contains radicals, it can be helpful to rationalize it (compare Simplified form of a radical expression), especially if further operations, such as adding or comparing that fraction to another, are to be carried out. It is also more convenient if division is to be done manually. When the denominator is a monomial square root, it can be rationalized by multiplying both the top and the bottom of the fraction by the denominator: : \frac = \frac \cdot \frac = \frac The process of rationalization of binomial denominators involves multiplying the top and the bottom of a fraction by the conjugate of the denominator so that the denominator becomes a rational number. For example: :\frac = \frac \cdot \frac = \frac = \frac = - \frac :\frac = \frac \cdot \frac = \frac = \frac = - \frac Even if this process results in the numerator being irrational, like in the examples above, the process may still facilitate subsequent manipulations by reducing the number of irrationals one has to work with in the denominator.

Typographical variations

In computer displays and
typography Typography is the art and technique of typesetting, arranging type to make written language legibility, legible, readability, readable and beauty, appealing when displayed. The arrangement of type involves selecting typefaces, Point (typogra ...
, simple fractions are sometimes printed as a single character, e.g. ½ ( one half). See the article on Number Forms for information on doing this in
Unicode Unicode, formally The Unicode Standard,The formal version reference is is an information technology standard for the consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems. The standard, ...
. Scientific publishing distinguishes four ways to set fractions, together with guidelines on use: * Special fractions: fractions that are presented as a single character with a slanted bar, with roughly the same height and width as other characters in the text. Generally used for simple fractions, such as: ½, ⅓, ⅔, ¼, and ¾. Since the numerals are smaller, legibility can be an issue, especially for small-sized fonts. These are not used in modern mathematical notation, but in other contexts. * Case fractions: similar to special fractions, these are rendered as a single typographical character, but with a horizontal bar, thus making them ''upright''. An example would be \tfrac, but rendered with the same height as other characters. Some sources include all rendering of fractions as ''case fractions'' if they take only one typographical space, regardless of the direction of the bar. * Shilling or solidus fractions: 1/2, so called because this notation was used for pre-decimal British currency ( £sd), as in "2/6" for a half crown, meaning two shillings and six pence. While the notation "two shillings and six pence" did not represent a fraction, the forward slash is now used in fractions, especially for fractions inline with prose (rather than displayed), to avoid uneven lines. It is also used for fractions within fractions ( complex fractions) or within exponents to increase legibility. Fractions written this way, also known as piece fractions, are written all on one typographical line, but take 3 or more typographical spaces. * Built-up fractions: \frac. This notation uses two or more lines of ordinary text and results in a variation in spacing between lines when included within other text. While large and legible, these can be disruptive, particularly for simple fractions or within complex fractions.


The earliest fractions were reciprocals of
integer An integer is the number zero (), a positive natural number (, , , etc.) or a negative integer with a minus sign (−1, −2, −3, etc.). The negative numbers are the additive inverses of the corresponding positive numbers. In the language of ...
s: ancient symbols representing one part of two, one part of three, one part of four, and so on. The
Egyptians Egyptians ( arz, المَصرِيُون, translit=al-Maṣriyyūn, ; arz, المَصرِيِين, translit=al-Maṣriyyīn, ; cop, ⲣⲉⲙⲛ̀ⲭⲏⲙⲓ, remenkhēmi) are an ethnic group native to the Nile Valley in Egypt. Egyptian ident ...
used Egyptian fractions  BC. About 4000 years ago, Egyptians divided with fractions using slightly different methods. They used least common multiples with unit fractions. Their methods gave the same answer as modern methods. The Egyptians also had a different notation for dyadic fractions in the Akhmim Wooden Tablet and several Rhind Mathematical Papyrus problems. The
Greeks The Greeks or Hellenes (; el, Έλληνες, ''Éllines'' ) are an ethnic group and nation indigenous to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea regions, namely Greece, Greek Cypriots, Cyprus, Greeks in Albania, Albania, Greeks in Italy, ...
used unit fractions and (later) continued fractions. Followers of the Greek
philosopher A philosopher is a person who practices or investigates philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Suc ...
Pythagoras Pythagoras of Samos ( grc, Πυθαγόρας ὁ Σάμιος, Pythagóras ho Sámios, Pythagoras the Samos, Samian, or simply ; in Ionian Greek; ) was an ancient Ionians, Ionian Ancient Greek philosophy, Greek philosopher and the eponymou ...
( BC) discovered that the
square root of two The square root of 2 (approximately 1.4142) is a positive real number that, when multiplied by itself, equals the number 2. It may be written in mathematics as \sqrt or 2^, and is an algebraic number. Technically, it should be called the princip ...
cannot be expressed as a fraction of integers. (This is commonly though probably erroneously ascribed to Hippasus of Metapontum, who is said to have been executed for revealing this fact.) In
Jain Jainism ( ), also known as Jain Dharma, is an Indian religions, Indian religion. Jainism traces its spiritual ideas and history through the succession of twenty-four tirthankaras (supreme preachers of ''Dharma''), with the first in the current ...
mathematicians in
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...
wrote the " Sthananga Sutra", which contains work on the theory of numbers, arithmetical operations, and operations with fractions. A modern expression of fractions known as bhinnarasi seems to have originated in India in the work of Aryabhatta (), Brahmagupta (), and Bhaskara (). Their works form fractions by placing the numerators ( sa, amsa) over the denominators (), but without a bar between them. In Sanskrit literature, fractions were always expressed as an addition to or subtraction from an integer. The integer was written on one line and the fraction in its two parts on the next line. If the fraction was marked by a small circle or cross , it is subtracted from the integer; if no such sign appears, it is understood to be added. For example, Bhaskara I writes: : ६  १  २ : १  १  १ : ४  ५  ९ which is the equivalent of : 6  1  2 : 1  1  −1 : 4  5  9 and would be written in modern notation as 6, 1, and 2 −  (i.e., 1). The horizontal fraction bar is first attested in the work of Al-Hassār (), a Muslim mathematician from Fez,
Morocco Morocco (),, ) officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is the westernmost country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and has land borders with Algeria to A ...
, who specialized in Islamic inheritance jurisprudence. In his discussion he writes: "for example, if you are told to write three-fifths and a third of a fifth, write thus, The same fractional notation—with the fraction given before the integer—appears soon after in the work of Leonardo Fibonacci in the 13th century. In discussing the origins of decimal fractions, Dirk Jan Struik states:
The introduction of decimal fractions as a common computational practice can be dated back to the Flemish pamphlet ''De Thiende'', published at Leyden in 1585, together with a French translation, ''La Disme'', by the Flemish mathematician Simon Stevin (1548–1620), then settled in the Northern
Netherlands ) , anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = , map_caption = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Kingdom of the Netherlands , established_title = Before independence , established_date = Spanish Neth ...
. It is true that decimal fractions were used by the Chinese many centuries before Stevin and that the Persian astronomer Al-Kāshī used both decimal and
sexagesimal Sexagesimal, also known as base 60 or sexagenary, is a numeral system with 60 (number), sixty as its radix, base. It originated with the ancient Sumerians in the 3rd millennium BC, was passed down to the ancient Babylonians, and is still used—in ...
fractions with great ease in his ''Key to arithmetic'' (
Samarkand fa, سمرقند , native_name_lang = , settlement_type = City , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from the top:Registan square, Shah-i-Zinda necropolis, Bibi-Khanym Mosque, view inside Shah-i-Zinda, ...
, early fifteenth century).
While the Persian mathematician Jamshīd al-Kāshī claimed to have discovered decimal fractions himself in the 15th century, J. Lennart Berggren notes that he was mistaken, as decimal fractions were first used five centuries before him by the
Baghdad Baghdad (; ar, بَغْدَاد , ) is the capital of Iraq and the list of largest cities in the Arab world, second-largest city in the Arab world after Cairo. It is located on the Tigris near the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon and the ...
i mathematician Abu'l-Hasan al-Uqlidisi as early as the 10th century.

In formal education

Pedagogical tools

primary school A primary school (in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and South Africa), junior school (in Australia), elementary school or grade school (in North America and the Philippines) is a school for primary ed ...
s, fractions have been demonstrated through Cuisenaire rods, Fraction Bars, fraction strips, fraction circles, paper (for folding or cutting), pattern blocks, pie-shaped pieces, plastic rectangles, grid paper, dot paper, geoboards, counters and computer software.

Documents for teachers

Several states in the United States have adopted learning trajectories from the Common Core State Standards Initiative's guidelines for mathematics education. Aside from sequencing the learning of fractions and operations with fractions, the document provides the following definition of a fraction: "A number expressible in the form where a is a whole number and b is a positive whole number. (The word ''fraction'' in these standards always refers to a non-negative number.)" The document itself also refers to negative fractions.

See also

* Cross multiplication * 0.999... * Multiple * FRACTRAN



External links

* * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Fraction (Mathematics) Division (mathematics) Egyptian inventions Elementary arithmetic Numbers