Using Rational Numbers
How to add, subtract, multiply and divide rational numbers
A rational number is a number that can be written as a simple fraction (i.e. as a ratio).
|Number||As a Fraction|
In general ...
So, a rational number looks like this:
p / q
But q cannot be zero, as that would be dividing by zero.
How to Add, Subtract, Multiply and Divide
If the rational number is something simple like 3, or 0.001, then just use mental arithmetic, or your calculator!
But if it is still in the form p / q, then read on to find how to handle it.
A rational number is a fraction, so you could also refer to:
But here I will be showing you those operations in a more Algebra-like way.
You might also like to read Fractions in Algebra.
I will start with multiplication, as that is the easiest.
To multiply two rational numbers, just multiply the tops and bottoms separately, like this:
Here is an example:
To divide two rational numbers, first flip the second number over (make it a reciprocal) and then do a multiply like above:
Here is an example:
Addition and Subtraction
I will cover Addition and Subtraction in one go, as they are the same method.
Before you can add or subtract, the rational numbers should have the same bottom number (called a Common Denominator).
The easiest way to do this is to
Multiply both parts of each number by the bottom part of the other
Like this (note that I use the dot · to mean multiply):
Here is an example of addition:
And an example of subtraction (I skipped the middle step to make it quicker):
Sometimes you will have a rational number like:
That is not as simple as it can get!
We can actually divide both top and bottom by 5 to get:
Now it is in the "simplest form".
Be Careful With "Mixed Fractions"
For example 7/4 = 1 3/4, shown here:
But for mathematics the "Improper" form (such as 7/4) is actually better.
Because Mixed fractions (such as 1 3/4) can be confusing when you write them down in a formula, as it can look like a multiplication:
|Mixed Fraction:||What is:||1 + 2 1/4||?|
|Is it:||1 + 2 + 1/4||= 3 1/4 ?|
|Or is it:||1 + 2 × 1/4||= 1 1/2 ?|
|Improper Fraction:||What is:||1 + 9/4||?|
|It is:||4/4 + 9/4 = 13/4|