How to Solve Fraction Problems: Math Help for Kids

Lots of kids need help with fraction problems, and if you're among them, you've come to the right place. Read on for help solving elementary school fraction problems at the 3rd and 4th grade levels.

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Help with Fractions

Fractions have a numerator (the number on the top) and a denominator (the number on the bottom). The numerator tells you how many parts or pieces your fraction represents. For example, if you take five doughnuts out of a dozen, the numerator of the corresponding fraction will be five. The denominator tells you the total number of fractional parts the numerator was taken from. Since the five doughnuts were taken from a dozen, or 12, the fraction representing this is 5/12.

Equivalent Fractions

Even if two fractions have different numerators and denominators, they may still be equivalent (equal). Imagine that your Mom asked you to do ten different chores this week. If you've already done five of them, you can say that you've completed 5/10 of your chores. However, since five is half of ten, you can also say that you've finished 1/2 of your chores. This means 5/10 and 1/2 are equivalent fractions.

In general, if you can multiply or divide both the numerator and denominator of one fraction by the same number to produce the other fraction, they are equivalent. For instance, 5/10 = 1/2 because 5 ÷ 5 = 1 and 10 ÷ 5 = 2.

Comparing Fractions

When you're comparing fractions with like denominators, such as 3/8 and 7/8, the numerators tell you which fraction is bigger. Since seven is greater than three (7 > 3), 7/8 is greater than 3/8 (7/8 > 3/8). It can help to visualize the problem: seven slices of pie is a lot more than three slices from the same pie.

If you're comparing two fractions with like numerators, the fraction with the smaller denominator is larger. For example, 3/5 > 3/10. If this confuses you, imagine that you cut a pizza into five slices, and your friend takes three of them (3/5). Three out of five slices would be more than half of the pizza! Next, imagine that you cut the same pizza into ten slices instead of five. If your friend takes three slices (3/10), those three slices will represent less than half of the pizza.

If you're comparing fractions that don't have like numerators or denominators, you'll need to convert them to equivalent fractions that do have like denominators. Then, you can compare these two new fractions to determine which of the original fractions is bigger. Here's an example with 1/6 and 2/3:

1) Find an equivalent fraction. In this case, 2/3 = 4/6 because 2 x 2 = 4 and 3 x 2 = 6.
2) Compare the two fractions with like denominators. In our example, 4/6 > 1/6 because four is greater than one.
3) Write your answer in terms of the original fractions. The answer is 2/3 > 1/6 because 2/3 = 4/6 and 4/6 is greater than 1/6.
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