This article is explains fraction for kids. Read on to find out more about fractions, mixed numbers, improper fractions and simplifying fractions.
Fractions for kids - Introduction
Imagine your mother bought a cake for your birthday. You also invited your best friend over for your birthday party and then your best friend gave you another cake. How many cakes will you now have? Yes, you will now have 1 plus 1 = 2 cakes
Now, imagine your mother bought a piece of cake, sliced it into 4 and gave a slice to you. How many pieces of cake will you have?
You will now have less than 1 piece of the cake because the cake is sliced into 4, and what you have is only a slice.
Fractions for kids – What is a fraction
In mathematics, in order for us to express numbers that are lesser than whole numbers, we use fractions. Fractions are useful for numbers that are smaller than whole numbers or between whole numbers.
In the cake example above, you get ¼ piece of the cake. What ¼ means is that you have 1 out of 4 total pieces of cake. In the fraction ¼, the 1 is written on top and also known as the numerator. The 4 is written at the bottom and is called the denominator.
How do you read or pronounce fractions?
Using the example of ¼, we can call the fraction “one over four” or simply “one quarter”. The numerator can be called by its own name (one, two, three, four, etc) but the denominator is said differently in the following ways:
- The denominator 2 is called a half. Eg: 1/2 = one half
- The denominator 3 is called a third. Eg: 2/3 = two-thirds
- The denominator 4 is called a quarter. Eg: 3/4 = three-quarters
- The denominator 5 is called a fifth. Eg: 4/5 = four fifths
- The denominator 6 is called a sixth. Eg: 5/6 = five sixths
- And so on...
Fractions for kids - mixed numbers
Imagine that after your mother gave you ¼ slice of the cake, your best friend came over and bought you a whole cake. How many pieces of cake do you now have?
You will now have 1 + ¼ = 1¼ piece of cakes which is either called “one and one-quarter” or “one and one over four”. You simply add the “one and” in front of the fraction for the additional cake.
Improper fractions for kids
Improper fraction is another way to express mixed numbers. For example, the whole cake above can be sliced into another four pieces of cake. The whole cake can also be called 4/4 slices of cake. So in total, you have 1/4 slice + 4/4 slices = 5/4 slices of cake. The fraction 5/4 is called an improper fraction because the numerator is bigger than the denominator.
How to convert a mixed number into an improper fraction
To convert a mixed number into an improper fraction, simply multiply the whole number by the denominator and add it the numerator. For example to covert 1¼ to an improper fraction, multiply the whole number (1) by the denominator (4) which gives (1x4) = 4 and add it to the numerator (1). You will get 5 which will become the numerator of the improper fraction. The denominator remains the same.
Although it is now written differently, the amount of cake is still the same. 1¼ piece of cake is actually the same as 5/4 pieces of cake. An improper fraction is just another way to express a mixed number.
Fraction at its simplest form
Imagine your mother bought home a piece of cake, cut it into halves and gave you 1 of the halves. As we have learnt earlier, you will have ½ of the cake. If your mother cut the cake into 4 and gave you 2 slices, you will have 2/4 of the cake. If you look at the amount of cakes you actually received in both scenarios, they are actually the same! This means that in mathematics, ½ is the same as 2/4!
In mathematics, people always try to express fractions in their simplest form. In the above example, ½ is a fraction in its simplest form but 2/4 is not in its simplest form. In order to tell if a fraction is in its simplest form or not, simply see if both the numerator and the denominator can be further divided by a common number. For example, for the fraction 2/4 both the numerator (2) and denominator (4) can be divided by the number 2. Therefore, it is not in its simplest form.
To change a fraction into its simplest form, divide both the numerator (2) and denominator (4) by the common divisible number (2). This process is known as “simplifying” the fraction and in this case you will get ½! Do note that ½ cannot be further divided by any other common number other than 1, if you divide both number by 1, you get answer (½) again!
If after dividing the common divisible number, the resultant fraction can be divided by another common number other than 1, keep dividing until it cannot be divided by any common number.
Forr example, the fraction 4/8 can be divided by the common number 2, which will be simplified into 2/4. 2/4 can then be further simplified to ½ which is the fraction simplest form!
Or instead of doing this in two steps, you can also divide 4/8 by the common divisible number 4. You will immediately arrive at the fraction’s simplest form ½
Fractions for kids – Summary
We have learnt quite a number of things about fractions today.
- We have learnt that fractions are used to express numbers that are lesser than whole numbers or between whole numbers
- We have also learnt the different parts of a mixed number -- the whole number, numerator and denominator.
- We have learnt about improper fractions and how to change improper fraction to a mixed number and vice versa.
- Finally, we have learnt how to express fraction at its simplest form
Part 2 of this article will teach you how to add, subtract, multiply and divide fraction.