fraction is a number of the form ±\dfrac{\textit{a}}{\textit{b}}, where a and b are positive integers. The number a is called the numerator and b is called the denominator. The numerator tells you the number of equal parts, and the denominator tells you how many of those parts make up a whole. Often fractions are numbers that fall between integers.  Fractions are also used to show division.

Equivalent Fractions

A fraction that has a common factor in both the numerator and denominator is equal to the fraction with the common factor canceled.

\dfrac{6}{10} = \dfrac{3}{5}
(factor 2 in numerator and denominator of \dfrac{6}{10})

Multiplying the numerator and denominator of a fraction by the same (non-zero) number also gives a new fraction which is equivalent to the original fraction.

\dfrac{3}{5} = \dfrac{6}{10} = \dfrac{9}{15} = \dfrac{12}{20}
\\[2ex]\dfrac{3 × 2}{5 × 2} = \dfrac{\,6\,}{10} = \dfrac{6 × 2}{10 × 2} = \dfrac{\,12\,}{20}

    • If a fraction’s numerator and denominator are equal (e.g. \dfrac{5}{5}), the fraction is equal to 1.
      (All 5 pieces of a cake that is cut into 5 pieces is 1 whole cake.)
    • A fraction that has zero as its numerator (e.g. \dfrac{0}{5}) is equal to zero.  (Zero pieces of the cake that is cut into 5 pieces.)<br>
    • A fraction that has zero as its denominator (e.g. \dfrac{8}{0}) is undefined. It isn’t an integer or a rational number.<br>

Simplifying Fractions

To simplify fractions, one method is to use the GCF (greatest common factor)

Divide the numerator and denominator by the GCF to reduce the fraction.

Always reduce fractions to the simplest terms.

The GRE always puts fractions in the lowest possible terms, so you should reduce any fractions to the simplest terms before going to the answer choices. If the GRE answers weren’t in simplest form, there could be confusion about the right answer because there could be two answer choices that were equivalent (e.g., \dfrac{1}{2} and \dfrac{2}{4}).

A fraction with a negative numerator or denominator is equivalent to a negative fraction.
\\[2ex]-\dfrac{\,3\,}{5} = \dfrac{\,-3\,}{5} = \dfrac{\,3\,}{-5}

If both numerator and denominator are negative, the fraction is positive.
\\[2ex]\dfrac{\,-3\,}{-5} = \dfrac{\,3\,}{5}

Reduce \dfrac{275}{525} to lowest possible terms.


Look for the GCF.

\dfrac{275}{525} = \dfrac{11×25}{21×25} = \dfrac{11}{21}

Express \dfrac{26}{16} as a mixed number in lowest terms.


Find the integer, then simplify the fraction.

\dfrac{26}{16} = 1\dfrac{\,10\,}{16} = 1\dfrac{\,5\,}{8}

Another method is to find the prime factors and cancel. This is discuss in the prior chapter.

Reduce \dfrac{220}{594} to simplest terms.


Do the prime factorization of the numerator and denominator. Cancel the common factors.

\dfrac{220}{594} = \dfrac{2×2×5×11}{2×3×3×3×11}

= \dfrac{2×5}{3×3×3} = \dfrac{10}{27}

Mixed Numbers

Mixed numbers are numbers that are an integer plus a proper fraction.

The number 4\dfrac{\,2\,}{3} is the integer 4, plus the fraction \dfrac{\,2\,}{3}

Any mixed number can be written as a fraction, and any fraction greater than 1 can be written as a mixed number.

Convert 4\dfrac{\,2\,}{3} into an improper fraction.


One whole is \dfrac{\,3\,}{3},
so 4 wholes  = 4 × \dfrac{\,3\,}{3} = \dfrac{\,12\,}{3}

Then add the fractions.
4\dfrac{\,2\,}{3} = \dfrac{\,12\,}{3} + \dfrac{\,2\,}{3} = \dfrac{\,14\,}{3}

To convert an improper fraction to a mixed number, divide the numerator by the denominator. The remainder will be the numerator of the fraction.

Convert \dfrac{79}{9} into a mixed number.


Divide the numerator by the denominator.
79 ÷ 9 = (8 × 9) + 7
The integer is 8, and the numerator of the fraction is the remainder, 7.
\\[1ex]\dfrac{79}{9} = 8\dfrac{\,7\,}{9}

Multiplying Fractions

How to multiply fractions:

        1. Cancel out any common factors that appear in numerators and denominators.
        2. Multiply all numerators to form one numerator and all denominators to form one denominato

Remember: you DON’T need a common denominator to multiply fractions!

Multiply:  \Big(\dfrac{6}{35}\Big)\Big(\dfrac{5}{18}\Big)


Factor the numerators and denominators. Cancel the common factors.

\Big(\,\dfrac{6}{35}\,\Big) \Big(\,\dfrac{5}{18}\,\Big) = \dfrac{6 × 5}{7 × 5 × 3 × 6}

= \dfrac{1}{7 × 3} = \dfrac{1}{21}

Multiply:  \Big(\dfrac{5\textit{x}^{\displaystyle{2}}}{6}\Big) \Big(\dfrac{9}{2\textit{x}}\Big)


Factor the numerators and denominators. Cancel the common factors.

\Big(\dfrac{5\textit{x}^{\displaystyle{2}}}{6}\Big) \Big(\dfrac{9}{2\textit{x}}\Big) = \dfrac{5 × \textit{x} × \textit{x} × 3 × 3}{2 × 3 × 2 × \textit{x}}

= \dfrac{15\textit{x}}{4}

To multiply mixed numbers, first change the numbers to improper fractions.

Multiply: 3\dfrac{\,1\,}{2} × \dfrac{\,4\,}{5}


Change 3\dfrac{\,1\,}{2} to an improper fraction. Multiply, then cancel the common factors.

3\dfrac{\,1\,}{2} × \dfrac{\,4\,}{5} = \dfrac{\,7\,}{2} × \dfrac{\,4\,}{5} = \dfrac{7 × 2 × 2}{2 × 5}

= \dfrac{14}{5} = 2\dfrac{\,4\,}{5}

Dividing Fractions

To divide fractions:

    1. change the divisor to its reciprocal, then multiply the fractions. (Remember that the divisor is the second number.)
    2. The reciprocal of \dfrac{2}{3} is \dfrac{3}{2}.  The reciprocal of \dfrac{5}{4} is \dfrac{4}{5}.
    3. When multiplying, cancel out any common factors that appear in both numerators and denominators.

Divide:  \dfrac{(\dfrac{\,5\,}{6})}{(\dfrac{\,7\,}{2})}


Use the reciprocal.  Multiply and cancel the common factors.

\dfrac{\dfrac{\,5\,}{6}}{\dfrac{\,7\,}{2}} = \dfrac{\,5\,}{6} × \dfrac{\,2\,}{7} = \dfrac{\,5\,}{21}

To divide mixed numbers, first change the numbers to improper fractions.

Divide: \dfrac{\dfrac{3}{5}}{2\dfrac{1}{10}}


Change 2\dfrac{1}{10} to an improper fraction.  Multiply by the reciprocal, then cancel the common factors.

\dfrac{\dfrac{3}{5}}{2\dfrac{1}{10}} = \dfrac{\dfrac{3}{5}}{\dfrac{21}{10}} = \dfrac{3}{5} × \dfrac{10}{21}

= \dfrac{3 × 2 × 5}{5 × 3 × 7} = \dfrac{2}{7}

Adding and Subtracting Fractions

  • To add or subtract fractions that have the same denominator, add or subtract the numerators. Check to see that the answer is in simplest terms.
    For example, \dfrac{3}{8}\,-\,\dfrac{1}{8} = \dfrac{2}{8} = \dfrac{1}{4}.
  • To add or subtract fractions that have different denominators, the first step is to write equivalent fractions that have the same, or a common, denominator.
  • To write all fractions with the same denominator, a quick choice is to multiply the denominators. For example,
    \dfrac{1}{3} + \dfrac{1}{4} = \dfrac{4}{12} + \dfrac{3}{12} = \dfrac{7}{12}.
  • But multiplying the denominators may give a rather large denominator. To avoid a large denominator, use the least common denominator (LCD). The LCD is the least common multiple (LCM) of all the denominators.

When adding and subtracting fractions you can split up the numerator, but you can never split up the denominator.

\dfrac{7 + 14}{7} = \dfrac{7}{7} + \dfrac{14}{7} = 1 + 2 = 3
Splitting the numerator works gives you the same value.

\dfrac{7}{7 + 14}\dfrac{7}{7} + \dfrac{7}{14} = 1 + \dfrac{1}{2}
Splitting the denominator gives you a different value, and is therefore incorrect.

Subtract: \dfrac{7}{12} \,-\, \dfrac{1}{16}


Find the LCD. Factor the denominators.
12 = 2 × 2 × 3          
16 = 2 × 2 × 2 × 2        
LCD = (2 × 2 × 3) × (2 × 2) = 48

Find equivalent fractions that have 48 as the denominator.
\\[2ex]\dfrac{7}{12} × \dfrac{4}{4} = \dfrac{28}{48}          \dfrac{1}{16} × \dfrac{3}{3} = \dfrac{3}{48}

Subtract. \dfrac{28}{48} \,-\, \dfrac{3}{48} = \dfrac{25}{48}

Complex Fractions

A complex fraction is a fraction that has a fraction in the numerator and/or denominator. In other words, it is a fraction divided by a fraction. Complex fractions contain variable expressions. To simplify, use the reciprocal of the divisor, then multiply.

Simplify: \dfrac{\Big(\dfrac{\textit{x}}{\textit{y}}\Big)}{\Big(\dfrac{2\textit{x}}{3}\Big)}


Use the reciprocal then multiply.

\dfrac{\dfrac{\textit{x}}{\textit{y}}}{\dfrac{2\textit{x}}{3}} = \dfrac{\textit{x}}{\textit{y}} × \dfrac{3}{2\textit{x}} = \dfrac{3}{2\textit{y}} (complex fractions – instructional video) (complex fractions – instructional video) (complex fractions – instructional video) (complex fractions – instructional video) (complex fractions) (complex fractions)

Cross Multiplication

What is the best way to compare fractions?

Which fraction is greater, \dfrac{3}{4} or \dfrac{8}{11}?


The LCD is 44, so compare

\dfrac{3}{4} = \dfrac{33}{44} and \dfrac{8}{11} = \dfrac{32}{44}.

So \dfrac{3}{4} is greater than \dfrac{8}{11},

or \dfrac{3}{4} > \dfrac{8}{11}.

An easier way to compare fractions is cross multiplication. Multiply the numerator of one fraction by the denominator of the other fraction and compare the products.

Which fraction is greater, \dfrac{7}{30} or \dfrac{21}{91}?


Set the fractions next to each other and cross multiply.

\dfrac{\,\,7\,\,}{30}  Crossmultiply \dfrac{\,\,21\,\,}{91}

30 × 21 = 630
7 × 91 = 637

637        630         …Put the products under the corresponding numerator.

637 > 630, so \dfrac{7}{30} > \dfrac{21}{91}.

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