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Adding Fractions with the Same Denominator

Adding fractions is pretty straightforward when you follow the rules. This lesson covers adding fractions that have the same denominators. We will include all of the information you will need to make working with common denominator problems a breeze!

The equation above shows the Rule for addition. So, if your are dealing with the same (common) denominator (b), the answer is the sum of the numerators (a and c) over their common denominator. Remember that a fraction refers to the number of parts in a "whole", and the WHOLE that we are talking about is always the number in the denominator (on the bottom). So, all we have to do is add up the parts and keep our same point of reference. That's all there is to it! Here's an example of adding fractions with the same denominator...

Now that you have this part of adding fractions down, let's dig a little deeper... You do want to be a "whiz" at fractions? Right? Okay then! It would be great if the rule as stated above was all you needed to know about adding fractions. But there are still a few more things we need to talk about to complete this lesson. So, let's get right to it with...

How to Simplify Your Answers


Sometimes when you add fractions of any type, you will need to simplify your answer. What that really means is that you must show your results in the "best" fractional form possible. As a result, here are a few more things to think about... First, your answer may be a higher equivalent fraction, which is better represented in its reduced form. Many teachers will insist that you reduce a fraction whenever possible.

Also, adding two fractions could result in what's called an improper fraction. This is where the numerator is larger than the denominator. To write these answers in their simplest form you will have to convert them to a mixed number. This will show a representation of the Whole Parts and the Fractional Parts. And finally, you may also be adding mixed numbers where the fractional parts have the same denominator. Even with these types of problems, you may need to simplify your answers. So let's continue with some detailed information about adding fractions in these special cases.

Reducing Fractions to Their Lowest Equivalent


Here's the situation. You have added the fractions okay, but your answer may not be showing the lowest equivalent fraction. So how do you make sure when you are adding fractions that your answer is shown in its lowest equivalent? Let's use an easy example of adding fractions so you will get the idea...

Notice that the original answer to adding the fractions our sample problem is "2/4." To determine if our answer is in its simplest form, we must factor the numerator and the denominator into its prime numbers. Click here for a review of prime numbers. The factors of a number are numbers that when multiplied together will equal that number. The easiest way to be sure that you have accounted for ALL of the factors of a number contained in a fraction is to break them down into prime numbers. What we are looking for are the prime numbers that are common factors in both the numerator and the denominator of a fraction. If we find these common factors, we can then cancel them out. The results will be the lowest fractional equivalent fraction. Since "2" is a common factor in both the numerator and denominator of our example, it indicates that our answer is not a fraction in its simplest form. Therefore, we will cancel out (/) one of the 2's in both the numerator and denominator by dividing by "2". The results is a reduced fraction in its simplest form. Here's the Rule...

Always keep in mind... Whatever you do to the numerator of a fraction you must also do to the fraction's denominator. So if you have to divide the numerator by a number, you must also divide the denominator by the same number. That way you will not change the overall value of the fraction. Let's add a little tougher fraction to be sure you've got it...

In this problem, a "2" and a "3" can be found as factors in both the numerator and the denominator of a fraction. Notice how we only cancel-out one-for-one! First we divide the numerator and denominator by "2", then divide both the numerator and denominator by "3." So what is left in the numerator is 1 x 1 x 3 = 3 and the denominator is 1 x 2 x 2 x 1 = 4. That leaves use with a reduced fraction equal to 3/4. Got it? GREAT! Now let's look at...

How to Simplify Improper Fractions


You may remember that an improper fractions is where the fraction's numerator has a greater value than that of the denominator. So when you are adding fractions and your answer ends up as an improper fraction, you must simplify your answer. The results will be in the form of a mixed number. To convert improper fractions into mixed numbers, just divide the numerator by the denominator. The results will be a whole number part and a fractional part. Here is an example...

As you can see, this is a pretty straightforward operation. But keep in mind that if there is no remainder, the answer is the WHOLE NUMBER only. Now that you are the master of adding fractions with the same denominator, it is time to tackle a tougher problem...

Adding Mixed Numbers That Have The Same Denominator


The easiest way to work with mixed numbers is to convert them to improper fractions first, before adding fraction, then convert your answer back to a mixed number. But first... Here's the Rule for converting mixed numbers into improper fractions...

To actually do a conversion, it would look like this...

Now all we have to do is add our new improper fractions, and simplify. So...

Now there you have it, all you need to be a "whiz" at adding fractions... and a whole lot more. If you are ready, it's time to go to the next level... Adding Fractions with Different Denominators You'll find our easy to follow instructions for adding fractions with different denominators here. We also includes finding the fraction's least common denominator and building equivalent fractions, just in case you missed it.

Detailed Help For Adding Fractions With Different Denominators


You have alreadyseen how easy adding fractions with the same or like denominators can be. Yousimply add the numerators and keep the same denominator, then simplify ifneeded. Now we are going totalk about adding fractions with different denominators. When you finish this lesson, you will wonder why you ever worriedabout adding these fractions in the first place. Promise! First of all, when adding fractions with different denominators, the firststep says that we must change these fractions so that they have the "samedenominator". Here are the steps for adding fractions with different denominators. We willbreak-down each step just like before to make sure you've got it. Then we willadd some tougher numbers. And finally, we will help you pull everythingtogether. Okay! So, here are the steps. 1. Build each fraction so that both denominators are equal. Remember, when adding fractions, the denominators must be equal. So we must complete this step first. What this really means is that you must find what is called a Common Denominator. For our advanced lesson you will be required to work the problem using what's called the Least Common Denominator (LCD). In either case you will build each fraction into an equivalent fraction. 2. Re-write each equivalent fraction using this new denominator 3. Now you can add the numerators, and keep the denominator of the equivalent fractions.

4. Re-write your answer as a simplified or reduced fraction, if needed. We know this sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but once you understand thoroughly howto find the Common Denominator or the LCD, and build equivalent fractions, everything else will start to fall into place. So, let's takeour time to do it Right! But keep in mind, ifyou are doing homework, be sure to answer the problems in the form asked for inthe assignment. Okay let's start with...

The Basics Add 1/2 + 1/3


1/2

+
1/3 Notice that the overall size of our point of reference (The Whole) is EXACTLY the same. Step #1 in our rule tells us that the denominators must be equal. And the easiest way to find a common denominator is to just multiply the denominators. So let's do that now...

2x3=6
The Common Denominator for 1/2 and 1/3 is 6 Step #2 - Re-write each equivalent fraction using this newdenominator. Since... 1/2

1/2is equivalent to 3/6


1/6 1/6 1/6 1/6 1/6 1/6

And... 1/3

1/3 is equivalent to 2/6


1/6 1/6

We re-write our equation to read...

Add: 3/6 + 2/6


Now we are ready to do Step #3 - ADD the numerators, and keep the denominator of the equivalent fractions (which is 6). So, we end up with...

3/6 + 2/6 = (3 + 2 )/6 = 5/6


3/6

+
2/6

=
5/6 Finally, Step #4 - Re-write your answer as a simplified or reduced fraction, if needed. In our example, the answer (5/6) is already in its simplest form. So, no further action is required! That's It! A quick and easy way to add fractions with different denominators. Now it's time to take the denominators. Are you READY? I'm going to take you step-by-step through the whole process. These examples give you what you'll need to work the harder problems in adding fractions. So be prepared! And it all starts with...

Advanced Course for adding fractions with different

Finding A Common Denominator

Sometimes, you may not be concerned with what number is in the denominator, as long as you can come up with the correct answer. Well, the "quick 'n dirty" formula for adding two fractions with different denominators looks like this...

Actually, it's ALGEBRA! YIKES! Didn't know you needed algebra for adding fractions? Don't Worry! This formula is for those OLDER folks... to make it a little easier for them to get the idea quickly. And if YOU "get it", Adding fractions with different denominators will be a snap for you. But for the rest of us... we are going to take a simpler approach...

You should know that the fastest way to find a common denominator is to multiply the denominators.

That's it!
If you wanted to add 1/3 + 1/4, to find the common denominator you just multiply 3 x 4. So, the common denominator is 12. Even if you were adding three fractions like 1/8 + 4/7 + 3/56, the same rule applies. Multiply 8 x 7 x 56 to get a common denominator of 3136. You may have already figured out that this might not work out to well for a lot of the fractions you'll be working with. Here's the problem.As the denominators get bigger, it gets harder to work with them. And sometimes, this can be a real problem. How about adding 27/28 + 1/56 + 13/35. Well, here's your common denominator. It's...

54880

WOW! That's a really BIG number, and it's only the FIRST STEP. So there has to be a better way for adding fractions with different denominators. And there is, if you know how to...

Find the Least Common Denominator (LCD)

The least common denominator of two or more non-zero denominators is actually the smallest whole number that is divisible by each of the denominators. There are two widely used methods for finding the least common denominator. Actually, this is the same basic idea behind finding the Least Common Multiple (LCM) for whole numbers (without the fractional parts). Note: In the examples below, we'll be addingthree fractions instead of the usual twobecause the principles are the same. This will give you a better understanding of the process. And in the "Pulling Everything Together" section, we will be adding fourfractions. Let's take a look at...

Method 1:
Simply list the multiples of each denominator (multiply by 2, 3, 4, etc.) then look for the smallest number that appears in each list. Example: Suppose we wanted to add 1/5 + 1/6 + 1/15. We would find the least common denominator as follows... First we list the multiples of each denominator.

Multiples of 5 are 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40,... Multiples of 6 are 12, 18, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48,... Multiples of 15 are 30, 45, 60, 75, 90,.... Now, when you look at the list of multiples, you can see that 30 is the smallest number that appears in each list. Therefore, the least common denominator of1/5, 1/6 and 1/15 is 30.

This method works pretty good. But, just like we noted above, adding fractions with larger numbers in the denominators it can get pretty messy. So hold that thought for a moment, as we look at another way to find a least common denominator for adding these same fractions.

Method 2:
Factor each of the denominators into primes. Then for eachdifferent prime number in all of the factorizations, do the following... 1. 2. 3. 4. Count the number of times each prime number appears in each of the factorizations. For each prime number, take the largest of these counts. Write down that prime number as many times as you countedfor it in step #2. The least common denominator is the product of all the prime numbers written down.

Example: We'll use the same fractions as above: 1/5, 1/6 and 1/15. Factor into primes (Click here to see our table of prime numbers.) o Prime factorization of 5 is 5 (5 is a prime number) o Prime factorization of 6 is 2 x 3 o Prime factorization of 15 is 3 x 5

Notice that the different primes are 2, 3 and 5. Now, we do Step #1 - Count the number of times each prime number appears in each of the factorizations... o The count of primes in 5 is one 5 o The count of primes in 6 is one 2 and one 3 o The count of primes in 15 is one 3 and one 5 Step #2 - For each prime number, take the largest of these counts. So we have... o The largest count of 2s is one o The largest count of 3s is one o The largest count of 5s is one Step #3 - Since we now know the count of each prime number, you simply - write down that prime number as many times as you counted for it in step #2. Here are the numbers... 2, 3, 5 Step #4 - The least common denominator is the product of all the prime numbers written down. 2 x 3 x 5 = 30 Therefore, the least common denominator of 1/5, 1/6 and 1/15is 30.

As you can see, both methods end up with the same results. Thereason we might want to use the different methods is becauseMethod #1works great for small numbers. But when thenumbersget bigger, Method #2 is the ONLY way to go. Now let's make the tricky part, really easy -- convert each fractionto an equivalent fraction using the newly found LCD, which is 30. Remember our problem: Add: 1/5 +1/6 + 1/15 Step #2 for adding fractions with different denominators says -"Re-write each equivalent fraction using the LCD as thedenominator." So let's do it! This is going to get a little detailed, so hang inthere!

Re-write Each Fraction As An Equivalent Fraction


The Rule to re-write a fraction as an equivalent fraction using theLCD says... Divide the LCD by the denominator of the fraction. Multiple the answer times the numerator of the fraction. Re-write the fraction using the LCD as the denominator.

So, if we write 1/5 as an equivalent fraction using 30 as our denominator, we have 30 divided by the denominator "5", which equals 6. We then multiple that 6 times the numerator "1" which gives us the new numerator of 6. Finally, we re-write the equivalent fraction using the 30 as our denominator, therefore our equivalent fraction is 6/30. The Rule actually looks like this... New Numerator = (LCD Denominator) x Numerator New Denominator = LCD Now we repeat the process for 1/6 and 1/15 Using 1/6 next, (30 6 = 5, and 5 x 1 = 5), so 1/6 is equivalent to5/30 And for 1/15, (30 15 = 2, and 2 x 1=2), so 1/15 is equivalent to2/30 Now then, at long last we can add our fractions... 1/5 + 1/6 + 1/15 = 6/30 + 5/30 + 2/30 = 13/30

Pulling Everything Together


We are going to use a little tougher problem for adding fractions with different denominators to illustrate that you CAN do it. Also, we will useMethod #2 to find the LCD because it works best in almost every case. If you have problems with any parts of this exercise, re-read the section above that covers it. We are going to talk through each step for adding these fractions without citing the rules exactly, just like in the "real world". Look at how everything works and you will be just fine! We'll be adding these fractions... 1/9 + 1/8 + 5/12 + 7/18 Since our denominators are 9, 8, 12, and 18, we need to find theLCD. So we factor each number into primes. Factorization Factorization Factorization Factorization of 9 is 3 x 3 of 8 is 2 x 2 x 2 of 12 is 2 x 2 x 3 of 18 is 2 x 3 x 3

When we do our largest count of the prime numbers, we find three2s, and two 3s (do you see them?), so we re-write the count and find the product. Like this... 2 x 2 x 2 x 3 x 3 = 72 Now we have our least common denominator of 72 Next... we convert each fraction to an equivalent fraction using 72 as our new denominator. So, let's convert...1/9 + 1/8 + 5/12 + 7/18 1/9 1/8 5/12 7/18 = = = = 8/72 9/72 30/72 28/72

Mission accomplished... all of our denominators are the same, so we can just add up the numerators. Our new equivalent fractions are 8/72, 9/72, 30/72 and 28/72 That's what changes our problem to 8/72 + 9/72 + 30/72 + 28/72

Now adding all of the numerators and placing the results over ourcommon denominator, the answer is... 8/72 + 9/72 + 30/72 + 28/72 = 75/72 Since our answer is an improper fraction (the numerator is largerthan the denominator), we now have three options. 1. Show the answer as is, with the least common denominator. 75/72 2. Reduce the fraction and show it as the lowest reduced equivalent. 25/24 3. Simplify the answer, and show it as a mixed number. 1 1/24 Remember, always show your answer in the form asked for in your instructions. The following information is a repeat of information found in other lessons, just in case you missed them.

How To Simplify Your Answers


Sometimes when adding fractions ofany type, you will need to simplify your answer. What that really meansis that you must show your results in the "best" form possible.As a result, here are a few more things to think about... 1. First, your answer may be a higher equivalent fraction, which is better represented in its reduced form. Many teachers will insist that you reduce your answer, whenever possible. 2. Also, adding fractions will often result in what's called animproper fraction. This is where the numerator is larger than the denominator. To write these answer in their simplest form you will have to convert them to a mixed number. This will show a representation of the Whole Parts and the Fractional Parts. 3. And finally, you may also be adding mixed numbers where the fractional parts have a different denominator. Even with these types of problems, you may need to simplify your answers. So let's continue with some detailed information aboutthese special cases.

Reducing Fractions To Their Lowest Equivalent

Here's thesituation. You have added the fractions okay, but your answer may not be showingthe lowest equivalent fraction. So how do you make sure your answer is shown inits lowest equivalent? Let's use an easy exampleso you will get the idea...

Noticethat the original answer after adding the fractions is "2/4." To determineif our answer is in its simplest form, we must factor the numeratorand the denominator into its prime numbers. Clickhere for a review of prime numbers. What weare looking for are the prime numbers that are common to both the numeratorand the denominator. If we find these common numbers, we can then cancel themout. The results will be the lowest equivalent fraction. Since"2" is a common factor in both the numerator and denominator ofour example, it indicates that our answer is not in its simplestform. Therefore, we will cancel out (/)one of the 2's in both the numerator and denominator by dividing by"2". The results is a reduced fraction in its simplest form. Here'sthe Rule...

Alwayskeep in mind... Whatever you do to the numeratorof a fraction you must also do to the denominator. So if you have todivide the numerator by a number, you must also divide the denominator by the samenumber. That way you will not change the overall value of thefraction. Let's do a little tougher problem to besure you've got it...

Inthis problem, a "2" and a "3" can be found in boththe numerator and the denominator. Notice how we only cancel-outone-for-one! First we divide the numerator and

denominator by"2", then divide both the numerator and denominator by"3." So what is left in the numerator is 1 x 1 x 3 = 3,and the denominator is 1 x 2 x 2 x 1 = 4. That leaves use with a reducedfraction equal to 3/4. Got it? GREAT! Nowlet's look at...

How toSimplify Improper Fractions


You may rememberthat an improper fractions is where the numerator has a greater value than thatof the denominator. So each time you add two fractions and your answer ends upas an improper fraction, youmust simplify your answer. The resultswill be in the form of a mixed number. To convertan improper fraction into a mixed number, just divide the numerator by thedenominator. The results will be a whole number part and a fractional part. Hereis an example...

Asyou can see, this is a pretty straightforward operation. But keep in mind thatif there is no remainder, the answer is the WHOLE NUMBER only. Nowthat you are the master of adding fractions with the same denominator, it istime to tackle a tougher problem...

AddingMixed Numbers With Different Denominator


Theeasiest way to work with mixed numbers is to convert them to improper fractionsfirst, then convert your answer back to a mixed number. Butfirst... Here's the Rulefor converting mixed numbers into improper fractions...

Toactually do a conversion, it would look like this...

Puttingthis problem into words... ... to convert 2 1/8to an improper fraction, we just multiply the Whole Number (2) times thedenominator (8), and add that answer to the Numerator (1). Theresult is the improper fraction 17/8. Now let's putthis new found knowledge to work and add a couple of mixed numbers. Note: We are using fractions with the same denominator here simply to point out that you must convert the mixed number into an improper fraction first.

Nowall we have to do is add our new improper fractions as usual, and simplify. So...

Nowthere you have it, all you need to be a "whiz" at adding fractions different denominators... and a whole lot more. I truly hope that you feel that I've delivered on my promise to make adding fractions easier than you expected.

Subtracting Fractions Is Just Like Adding Them


Subtracting fractions with the same denominator is just as easy as adding them. But we will take nothing for granted. So you can expect the same detailed explanation as always. So let's start our discussion as if this were the first page you saw upon arrival to our site. So,... The Rules for subtracting fractions state that denominators must be the same. Period. And since our denominator are already the same... Let let's begin with the Rule....

The equation above shows the Rule for subtracting fractions with like denominators. So, if you are subtracting fractions with the same(common) denominator (b), the answer is the difference between the numerators (a - c) over their common denominator. Remember that a fraction refers to the number of parts in a "whole", and the WHOLE that we are talking about is always the number in the denominator (on the bottom). So, when subtracting fractions that refer to the "same" whole, all we have to do is subtract the parts and keep our same point of reference. Yep! That's all there is to it! Since you may not have seen the lesson on adding fractions, we'll give you the "rest of the story" so you won't miss out on any of the detail you'll need for subtracting fractions. As you probably already know, there is a lot more to subtracting fractions than just the difference of the numerators. So, we'll go over some of that extra stuff now.

If you already know who to simplify fractions, which includes reducing fractions, simplifying improper factions, and how to deal with mixed number, you can bypass the rest of this page. But if not, please read on...

How to Simplify Your Answers


Sometimes when you subtract fractions of any type, you will need tosimplify your answer. What that really means is that you must showyour results in the "best" form possible. As a result, here are a few more things to think about... 1. First, your answer may be a higher equivalent fraction, which is better represented in its lowest form. Many teachers will insist that you reduce your answer, whenever possible. 2. Also, subtracting two fractions could result in what's called animproper fraction. This is where the numerator is larger than the denominator. To write these answer in their simplest form you will have to convert them to a mixed number. This will show a representation of the Whole Parts and the Fractional Parts. 3. And finally, you may also be subtracting mixed numbers where the fractional parts have the same denominator. Even with these types of problems, you may need to simplify your answers. So let's continue with some detailed information about these special cases.

Reducing Fractions
Here's the situation. You have subtracted the fractions, but your answer still may not be showing the lowest equivalent fraction. So how do you make sure your answer is shown in its lowest equivalent? Let's use an easy example so you will get the idea...

Notice that the original answer to our sample problem is "2/4." To determine if our answer is in its simplest form, we must factor the numerator and the denominator into its prime numbers. Click here for a review of prime numbers. What we are looking for are the prime numbers that are common to both the numerator and the denominator. If we find these common numbers, we can then cancel them out. The results will be the lowest equivalent fraction. Since "2" is a common factor in both the numerator and denominator of our example, it indicates that our answer is not in its simplest form. Therefore, we will cancel out (/) one of the 2's in both the numerator and denominator by dividing by "2". The results is a reduced fractionin its simplest form. Here's the Rule...

Always keep in mind... Whatever you do to the numerator of a fraction you must also do to the denominator. So if you have to divide the numerator by a number, you must also divide the denominator by the same number. That way you will not change the overall value of the fraction. Let's do a little tougher problem to be sure you've got it...

In this problem, a "2" and a "3" can be found in both the numerator and the denominator. Notice how we only cancel-out one-for-one! First we divide the numerator and denominator by "2", then divide both the numerator and denominator by "3." So what is left in the numerator is1 x 1 x 1 = 1 and the denominator is 1 x 1 x 2 x 1 = 2. That leaves use with a reduced fraction equal to 1/2. See what we just did? GREAT! Now let's look at how to...

Simplify Improper Fractions

You may remember that an improper fractions is where the numerator has a greater value than that of the denominator. So each time you add two fractions and your answer ends up as an improper fraction, you must simplify your answer. The results will be in the form of amixed number. To convert an improper fraction into a mixed number, just divide the numerator by the denominator. The results will be a whole number part and a fractional part. Here is an example...

As you can see, this is a pretty straightforward operation. But keep in mind that if there is no remainder, the answer is the WHOLE NUMBER only. Now that you are the master of subtracting fractions with the same denominator, it is time to tackle a tougher problem...

Subtracting Mixed Numbers


The easiest way to work with mixed numbers is to convert them to improper fractions first, do the math operation, then convert your answer back to a mixed number (if needed). But first... Here's the Rule for converting mixed numbers into improper fractions...

To actually do a conversion, it would look like this...

Putting this problem into words... ... to convert 2 1/8 to an improper fraction, we just multiply the Whole Number (2) times the denominator (8), add that answer to the Numerator (1), and keep the denominator of the fractional part. The result is the improper fraction 17/8. Now let's put this new found knowledge to work and subtract a couple of mixed numbers.

Now all we have to do is subtract our new improper fractions, and simplify. So...

Now there you have it, all you need to be a "master" at subtracting fractions with the same denominator... and a whole lot more.

Subtracting Fractions Is Actually Easier Than Adding Fractions


When subtracting fractions with different denominators, we follow thesame process we used for adding different fractions. But since everybody doesn't start with addition, we provide the same level of detail for subtraction. First of all, when subtracting fractions with different denominators, the first step in the Rule says that we must change these fractions so that they have the "same denominator". Here are the steps for subtracting fractions with different denominators. We will break-down each step just like before to make sure you've got it. Then we will subtract some tougher numbers. And finally, we will help you pull everything together. Okay!

So, here are the steps. 1. Build each fraction so that both denominators are equal. Remember, when subtracting fractions, thedenominators must be equal. So we must complete this step first. What this really means is that you must find what is called aCommon Denominator. Most of the time you will be required to work the problem using what's called the Least Common Denominator (LCD). In either case you will build each fraction into an equivalent fraction. 2. Re-write each equivalent fraction using this new denominator 3. Now you can subtract the numerators, and keep the denominator of the equivalent fractions. 4. Re-write your answer as a simplified or reduced fraction, if needed.

But keep in mind, if you are doing homework, be sure to answer the problems in the form asked for in the assignment. Okay let's start with...

The Basics Subtract: 1/2 - 1/3


1/2

1/3 Notice that the overall size of our point of reference (The Whole) is EXACTLY the same. Step #1 in our rule tells us that the denominators must be equal. And the easiest way to find a common denominator is to just multiply the denominators. So let's do that now...

2x3=6
The Common Denominator for 1/2 and 1/3 is 6 Step #2 - Re-write each equivalent fraction using this newdenominator.

Since... 1/2

1/2 is equivalent to 3/6


1/6 And... 1/3 1/6 1/6 1/6 1/6 1/6

1/3 is equivalent to 2/6


1/6 1/6

We re-write our equation to read...

Subtract: 3/6 - 2/6


Now we are ready to do Step #3 - Subtract the numerators, and keepthe denominator of the equivalent fractions (which is 6). So, we end up with...

3/6 - 2/6 = (3 - 2 )/6 = 1/6


3/6

2/6

=
1/6

Finally, Step #4 - Re-write your answer as a simplified or reduced fraction, if needed. In our example, the answer (1/6) is already in its simplest form. So, no further action is required! That's It!

A quick and easy way to subtract fractions with different denominators. Just like with addition, there is an Advanced Course for subtracting fractions with different denominators. But, it's not nearly as intense. So are you READY to go? As usual, I'm going to take you step-by-step through the whole process. These examples give you what you'll need to work the harder problems in subtracting fractions. Actually, there really aren't any harder problems. Just a couple ofRules to keep things straight.

Once again, for those that missed it, well repeat with ...

Finding A Common Denominator

Sometimes, you may not be concerned with what number is in the denominator, as long as you can come up with the correct answer. Here is the "quick 'n dirty" formula for subtracting two fractions with different denominators looks like this...

This formula is just an algebraic expression that show how all of the numbers fit together. So if you're up to the challenge, just plug in your fractional numbers and do the math. It's really not that tough. If you look at the fraction to the right of the equal sign, you'll notice that the denominator (b x d) tells you to simply multiply the denominators, So, to find a common denominator, that's ALL you would do.

Period. That's it!


So, If you wanted to subtract 1/3 - 1/4, to find the common denominator you just multiply 3 x 4. So, the common denominator is 12. Even if you were subtracting three fractions like 7/8 - 4/7 - 3/56, thesame rule applies. Multiply 8 x 7 x 56 to get a common denominator of 3136.

But, you're faced with a problem. As the denominators get bigger, it gets harder to work with them. And sometimes, this can be a real problem. How about subtracting 27/28 - 1/56 - 13/35. Well, here's your common denominator. It's...

54880

That's a really BIG number, and it's only the FIRST STEP. But sure enough, there is a better way to subtract fractions with different denominators.

Find the Least Common Denominator (LCD)

The least common denominator of two or more non-zero denominators is actually the smallest whole number that is divisible by each of the denominators. There are two widely used methods for finding the least common denominator. Actually, this is the same basic idea behind finding the Least Common Multiple (LCM) for whole numbers (without the fractional parts).

Method 1:
Simply list the multiples of each denominator (multiply by 2, 3, 4, etc.) then look for the smallest number that appears in each list. Example: Suppose we wanted to subtract 1/5 - 1/6. We would find the least common denominator as follows... First we list the multiples of each denominator.

Multiples of 5 are 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40,... Multiples of 6 are 12, 18, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48,... Now, when you look at the list of multiples, you can see that 30 is the smallest number that appears in each list. Therefore, the least common denominator of 1/5and 1/6 is 30.

This method works pretty good. But, just like we noted above, subtracting fractions with larger numbers in the denominators it can get pretty messy. So let's look at another way to find the least common denominator to subtract these same fractions.

Method 2:
Factor each of the denominators into primes. Then for eachdifferent prime number in all of the factorizations, do the following... 1. 2. 3. 4. Count the number of times each prime number appears in each of the factorizations. For each prime number, take the largest of these counts. Write down that prime number as many times as you countedfor it in step #2. The least common denominator is the product of all the prime numbers written down.

Example: We'll use the same fractions as above: 1/5, and 1/6. Factor into primes (Click here to see our table of prime numbers.) o Prime factorization of 5 is 5 o Prime factorization of 6 is 2 x 3

Notice that the different primes are 2, 3 and 5. Now, we do Step #1 - Count the number of times each prime number appears in each of the factorizations... o The count of primes in 5 is one 5 o The count of primes in 6 is one 2 and one 3 Step #2 - For each prime number, take the largest of these counts. So we have... o The largest count of 2s is one o The largest count of 3s is one o The largest count of 5s is one Step #3 - Since we now know the count of each prime number, you simply - write down that prime number as many times as you counted for it in step #2. Here they are... 2, 3, 5 Step #4 - The least common denominator is the product of all the prime numbers written down.

2 x 3 x 5 = 30
Therefore, the least common denominator of 1/5, 1/6 and 1/15is 30.

As you can see, both methods end up with the same results. The reason we might want to use the different methods is becauseMethod #1 works great for small numbers. But when the numbers get bigger, Method #2 is the ONLY way to go. Now let's make the tricky part, really easy -- convert each fraction to an equivalent fraction using the newly found LCD, which is 30. Remember our problem: Subtract: 1/5 -1/6 Step #2 for subtracting fractions with different denominators says - "Re-write each equivalent fraction using the LCD as the denominator." So let's do it! This is going to get a little detailed, so hang in there!

Re-write Each Fraction As An Equivalent Fraction


The Rule to re-write a fraction as an equivalent fraction using the LCD says... Divide the LCD by the denominator of the fraction. Multiple the answer times the numerator of the fraction. Re-write the fraction using the LCD as the denominator.

So, if we write 1/5 as an equivalent fraction using 30 as our denominator, we have 30 divided by the denominator "5", which equals 6. We then multiple that 6 time the numerator "1" which gives us the new numerator of 6. Finally, we re-write the equivalent fraction using the 30 as our denominator, therefore our equivalent fraction is 6/30. The Rule actually looks like this... New Numerator = (LCD Denominator) x Numerator New Denominator = LCD Now we repeat the process for 1/6 Using 1/6 next, (30 6 = 5, and 5 x 1 = 5), so 1/6 is equivalent to5/30 Now we can subtract our fractions...

1/5 - 1/6 = 6/30 - 5/30 = 1/30

Pulling Everything Together


To prove that YOU can do it, we'll throw in a couple of fractions withbigger numbers. And then, go through the same step as before but without reciting the rules exactly. Just to make double-sure you've got it. We'll be subtracting these fractions... 17/18 - 4/9 - 1/8 Since our denominators are 18, 9, and 8, we need to find the LCD. So we factor each number into primes. Factorization of 18 is 2 x 3 x 3 Factorization of 9 is 3 x 3 Factorization of 8 is 2 x 2 x 2

When we do our largest count of the prime numbers, we find three2s, and two 3s (do you see them?), so we re-write the count and find the product. Like this... 2 x 2 x 2 x 3 x 3 = 72 Now we have our least common denominator of 72 Next... we convert each fraction to an equivalent fraction using 72 as our new denominator. So, let's convert... 17/18, 4/9, and 1/8 17/18 = 68/72 4/9 = 32/72 1/8 = 9/72

Okay! All of our denominators are the same, so we can just find the difference of numerators. Our new equivalent fractions are 68/72, 32/72, and 9/72 And that changes our problem to 68/72 - 32/72 9/72 Finally, we do the subtraction of the numerators and place the results over our common denominator, the answer is... 68/72 - 32/72 - 9/72 = 27/72 Since our answer is not in its simplest form, we have two options. 1. Show the answer as is, with the least common denominator. 27/72

2. Reduce the fraction and show it as the lowest reduced equivalent. 3/8 Remember, always show your answer in the form asked for in your instructions. The following information is a repeat of information found in other lessons, just in case you missed them. Now let's look at...

How to Simplify Improper Fractions


You may remember that an improper fractions is where the numerator has a greater value than that of the denominator. So each time you subtract fractions and your answer ends up as an improper fraction, you must simplify your answer. The results will be in the form of amixed number. To convert an improper fraction into a mixed number, just divide the numerator by the denominator. The results will be a whole number part and a fractional part. Here is an example...

As you can see, this is a pretty straightforward operation. But keep in mind that if there is no remainder, the answer is the WHOLE NUMBER only. Now that you are the master of subtracting fractions with the same denominator, it is time to tackle a tougher problem...

Subtracting Mixed Numbers With Different Denominator


The easiest way to work with mixed numbers is to convert them to improper fractions first, then convert your answer back to a mixed number. But first... Here's the Rule for converting mixed numbers into improper fractions...

To actually do a conversion, it would look like this...

Putting this problem into words... ... to convert 2 1/8 to an improper fraction, we just multiply the Whole Number (2) times the denominator (8), and add that answer to the Numerator (1). The result is the improper fraction 17/8.

Now let's put this new found knowledge to work and subtract a couple of mixed numbers. Suppose we wanted to subtract 4 1/2 - 3 1/3. First we would convert our mixed numbers using the Rule from above...

4 1/2 = 9/2 3 1/3 = 10/3

Then, we would build equivalent fraction for both fractions, using the least common denominator.

9/2 = 27/6 10/3 = 20/6

Now all we have to do is subtract our new improper fractions as usual, and simplify. So...

27/6 - 20/6 = 7/6 Simplified answer... 1 1/6


Now there you have it, all you need to be a "whiz" at subtracting fractions with different denominators... and a whole lot more.

Multiplying Fractions is as Easy as One, Two, Three


For most students, multiplying fractions is the easiest of the four basic operations. Why? You do not have to worry about a common denominator. Here's the Rule... 1. Multiply the numerators. 2. Multiply the denominators. 3. Simplify or reduce the resulting fraction, if possible.

2/3 X 4/5 = (2 X 4)/(3 X 5) = 8/15


We can illustrate the multiplication problem above by picturing each fraction as part of a whole or unit. With that idea in mind, we can show the fractions 4/5 and 2/3 as...

Like in our example above, we wanted to find 2/3 of 4/5. The "of" in this expression indicates that we are taking a part of something. That's what multiplying fractions is really all about. When we combine the two diagrams as shown below, the part of the whole that represents multiplying 2/3 x 4/5 is shown in the double-shaded area.

Notice how the Rule for multiplication is "suggested" by the diagram.

By the way...
Did you also notice that the double shaded area is less than both fractions, 2/3 and 4/5? That's because multiplying proper fractionsALWAYS produces a smaller fraction. Think about that for a moment. When we multiply a fraction by a fraction, aren't we actually taking a "part" of a "part"? As always, don't forget to reduce or simplify your answer, as needed. Remember to present your solution in the form asked for in your instructions. Okay!

Dividing Fractions Has A Weird Rule


Dividing fractions can be a little tricky. It's the only operation that requires using the reciprocal. Using the reciprocal simply means youflip it over, or invert it. For example, the reciprocal of 2/3 is 3/2. After we give you the rule, we will attempt to explain WHY you have to use the reciprocal in the first place. But for now... Here's the Rule for division... To divide fractions, convert the division process to a multiplication process by using the following steps.

1. Change the "" sign to "x" and invert the fraction to the right of the sign. 2. Multiply the numerators. 3. Multiply the denominators. 4. Re-write your answer in its simplified or reduced form, if needed Once you complete Step #1 for dividing fractions, the problem actually changes from division to multiplication.

1/2 1/3 = 1/2 x 3/1 1/2 x 3/1 = 3/2 Simplified Answer is 1 1/2
Now that's all there is to it. The main thing you have to remember when you divide is to invert the fraction to the right of the division sign, and change the sign to multiplication. The "divisor" (like 1/3 in our example) has some other consideration that you should keep in mind...

Special Notes!

Remember to only invert the divisor. The divisor's numerator or denominator can not be "zero". We must convert the operation to multiplication BEFORE performing an cancellations.

I promised to try to explain why the rule requires inverting the divisor. Here goes..

Why Dividing Fractions Requires Inverting The Divisor


Let's use our simple example to actually validate this strange Rule for division.

If you really think about it, we are dividing a fraction by a fraction, which forms what is called a "complex fraction". It actually looks like this...

When working with complex fractions, what we want to do first is get rid of the denominator (1/3), so we can work this problem easier. You may recall that any number multiplied by its reciprocal is equal to 1. And since, 1/3 x 3/1 = 1, we can use the reciprocal property of 1/3 (3/1) to make the value of the denominator equal to 1. But, you might also remember that whatever we do to the denominator, we must also do to the numerator, so as not to change the overall "value". So let's multiply both the numerator and denominator by 3/1...

Which gives us...

Here's what happened... By multiplying the numerator and denominator by 3/1, we were then able to use the reciprocal property to eliminate the denominator. Actually, without our helpful Rule, we would have to use all of the steps above.

So, the Rule for dividing fractions really saves us a lot of steps! Now that's the simplest explanation I could come up with for WHYand HOW we end up with a Rule that says we must invert the divisor!