Fraction Help for Kids: Homework Tips and Tricks

Learning about fractions is a big part of elementary school math, and it can be a challenge. Read this article for some tips that can help you succeed.

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Tips for Working with Fractions

Understand the Parts of a Fraction

Students often make mistakes with fraction problems because they confuse the numerator and the denominator. The numerator is the number on top, and the denominator is the number on the bottom of the fraction. To keep these two names straight, remember that 'denominator' and 'down' both start with the letter 'd.'

Pay Attention to Denominators

It's easy to forget the rules for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions. You can only add and subtract fractions that have common denominators, like 1/4 and 3/4. However, you can multiply or divide any fraction by any other fraction, even if their denominators are different. For example, it would be fine to multiply 2/5 and 3/7. It helps to remember that you can only add or subtract numerators; these operations should not be performed on denominators.

Use the Reciprocal

Many students are confused by the process for dividing fractions because it doesn't actually involve division. To divide two fractions, you actually multiply the first fraction by the reciprocal of the second one.

A reciprocal is just a fraction with its numerator and denominator reversed. For example, the reciprocal of 1/5 is 5/1, and the reciprocal of 7/8 is 8/7. If you're dividing 1/2 by 1/4, you would actually multiply 1/2 by the reciprocal of 1/4, which is 4/1. It looks like this:

1/2 ÷ 1/4 = 1/2 x 4/1 = 4/2 = 2

Reduce Your Answer

It's also common for students to forget to simplify their answers. For instance, the answer to a problem might be 2/8, but some teachers will take off points if it is not fully reduced to 1/4.

To be sure that your answer is fully reduced, list out the factors of both the numerator and the denominator. (A number's factors are all of the numbers that it's divisible by.) If the numerator and denominator have any common factors, then divide them both by the largest one to get the reduced fraction. If they don't have any common factors, then the fraction is fully reduced.

For example, here is how you'd check to see if 6/12 is fully reduced. First, list the factors of six, which are one, two, three and six. The factors of 12 are one, two, three, four, six and 12. The largest common factor on these lists is six, so you can divide the numerator (six) and the denominator (12) by six. Since 6 ÷ 6 = 1 and 12 ÷ 6 = 2, the reduced fraction is 1/2.

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