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Algebra From Scratch:

NUMBERS

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About the Author
Hassan Mirza is currently pursuing a Masters degree in robotics at Imperial
College London and is a professional teacher of physics and mathematics. Aside
from having a 1st class Masters in theoretical physics, he also has over 12 years’
experience in 2D design and 3D modelling.
In his time away from teaching and learning, Hassan enjoys combining his 3D-
printing skills with Arduino electronics to create interactive systems.
Contents

1 Basic Math Operations 3


1.1 Operators and Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
1.2 Syntax . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
1.3 Addition and subtraction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
1.3.1 Addition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
1.3.2 Subtraction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
1.4 Multiplication and division . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
1.4.1 Multiplication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
1.4.2 Division . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
1.5 Indicies (powers) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
1.6 The order of operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
1.7 Parentheses (brackets) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
1.7.1 Types of parentheses and nesting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
1.7.2 Using parentheses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
1.8 Worked Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
1.8.1 Example 1: Reducing multiplication problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
1.8.2 Example 2: More on BIDMAS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
1.8.3 Example 3: A little more on brackets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
1.9 Exercise 1 - Basic Math Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

2 Fractions: Parts and Wholes 12


2.1 Introducing fractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
2.1.1 Defining fractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
2.2 Numerators and denominators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
2.3 Maths with Fractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
2.3.1 Fraction addition and subtraction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
2.4 Multiplying Fractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.4.1 Multiplying fractions with fractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.4.2 Multiplying fractions with whole numbers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.5 Dividing Fractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.5.1 Dividing fractions by fractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.5.2 Dividing fractions by whole numbers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
2.5.3 Dividing whole numbers by fractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
2.6 Fractions and division . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
2.7 More on fraction addition and subtraction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
2.8 Simplifying fractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
2.9 Worked Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
2.9.1 Example 1: Simplifying fractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
2.9.2 Example 2: Triple fractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
2.9.3 Example 3: Mixed operations in fractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
2.9.4 Example 4: Fractions in context I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

1
2.9.5 Example 5: Fractions in context II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
2.10 Exercise 2 - Fractions: Parts and wholes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

3 Negative Numbers 26
3.1 The number line . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
3.2 Terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
3.2.1 Positive terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
3.3 Adding and subtracting negative numbers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
3.3.1 Example 1: Find the result of 4 + 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
3.3.2 Example 2: Find the result of 3 − 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
3.3.3 Example 3: Find the result of 10 − −3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
3.4 Multiplying and dividing negative numbers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
3.4.1 Negative number multiplication rules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
3.4.2 Negative number division rules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
3.4.3 A handy tip . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
3.5 Negative fractions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
3.6 Worked examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
3.6.1 Example 1: Simplifying compound operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
3.6.2 Example 2: Simplifying compound operations continued . . . . . . . . . 33
3.6.3 Example 3: Negative numbers in context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
3.6.4 Example 4: Negative fractions I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
3.6.5 Example 5: Negative fractions II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
3.7 Exercise 3 - Negative Numbers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

4 Answers 37

2
“The roots of education are bitter, but the
fruits are sweet.”
Aristotle

Basic Math Operations


1
1.1 Operators and Operations
An operator is something which tells us what to do with numbers. The thing we actually
do with the numbers is called the operation. For example, the numbers

4, 5
don’t necessarily mean much to us until we know what to do with them. So an operator – like,
for example, the ’plus’ (+) sign – will tell us what to do. In the case of the + sign, we know
that the operation is addition:

4 + 5 = 9.

The important thing to note is that there must only be one operation associated with every
operator. For instance, whenever you see the ‘+’ operator, you know that you have to add the
two numbers in question and nothing else.

1.2 Syntax
To put it simply, syntax is mathematical grammar. Just like sentences in English must
follow a structure in order to be understood, mathematical statements also have to be written
in a standard way in order for people (and machines) to understand.

As an example, if I wanted to ask someone to add the number 4 with the number 9, some
options may be:

• add 4 with 9,

• find the total of 4 and 9, or

• sum up 4 with 9.

3
However, to write it in a way that is understandable mathematically, there really are only two
options:
4 + 9 or 9 + 4.
This means that any other way of writing the above statement would be syntaxically incor-
rect. So although the following statements

4, 9, +

and

+4, 9
may make some kind of sense when spoken, if you were to try and put them in your calculator,
you’d end up with a syntax error!

Syntax is absolutely crucial when it comes to algebra. A mastery of syntax allows for a
smooth journey through any level of not just algebra, but mathematics in general.

1.3 Addition and subtraction


1.3.1 Addition
Although it is recommended that you have a scientific calculator in order to complete this
course, it is a very useful life skill to be able to reduce certain addition and subtraction
problems so that you can do them mentally. We won’t be dealing with the ‘long’ addition and
subtraction methods.

Let’s start with a simple sum:


33 + 48. (1.1)
The best way to find the answer to this mentally is to break it up into smaller chunks, then
add the chunks together in a different order. In this case, you can break up 33 into 30 and 3,
and break 48 into 40 and 8. Then you simply add the chunks up separately in an order that is
easiest:

30 + 40 = 70 and 3 + 8 = 11 → 70 + 11 = 81.

In the same way, you can sum more complicated numbers. Taking 143 + 829 as an example,
you first break each number down:

Step 1: 100 + 40 + 3 and 800 + 20 + 9


then add them in any order that you find easiest:

Step 2: 100 + 800 and 40 + 20 and 3 + 9


which gives

900 + 60 + 12 = 972.
It really is that easy!

4
1.3.2 Subtraction
Subtraction is the operation of finding the difference between numbers. Luckily, you can
reduce subtraction problems by means of the same method used above for addition. So let’s
dive right in and find the result of 743 − 241:

Step 1: 743 = 700 + 40 + 3 and 241 = 200 + 40 + 1


then do the subtractions:

Step 2: 700 − 200 and 40 − 40 and 3 − 1


which gives 500 + 0 + 2 = 502. The key to subtraction is to see that the second number is being
taken away from the first – so each chunk that you break the second number down into must
be taken away from the corresponding chunk of the first number.

1.4 Multiplication and division


1.4.1 Multiplication
Multiplication is the operation of finding the product of numbers. You can imagine multi-
plication as ’lots of’ or ’groups of’ and it is represented by the × symbol. For example, the
statement ’5 × 4’ can be interpreted as:

• 5 groups of 4, or 4 groups of 5
• 5 lots of 4, or 4 lots of 5
• the product of 5 and 4 (or 4 and 5).

Taking any of the above interpretations, the answer is, of course, the number 20.

It is strongly recommended that you memorise your ‘times-tables’ in order to make things
easier. Ideally you will memorise all your times-tables from the number 1 to the number 20
inclusive, but at the very least it is crucial to remember from 1 to 10.

Some common multiplications


There are some products which you should remember at all times as they tend to occur quite
often:

• Multiplying a number by 0 results in 0. No exceptions. E.g. 120.315 × 0 = 0.


• Multiplying a number by 1 leaves the number unchanged - again, no exceptions. E.g.
599 × 1 = 599.

1.4.2 Division
Division is the operation which gives the amount of times a certain number fits into another.
It can be imagined as the opposite operation to multiplication and its operator symbol is ÷.

Imagine I have 35 sweets which I want to distribute evenly to 5 children. How many would
each child receive? The answer is the same as if you were to ask “How many times does 5 go
into 35?”. This is division.

5
Just like with the other operators, however; there are different ways in which division prob-
lems can be communicated in language. We will delve much more into this later but for now,
you should be comfortable with the following:
• 35 divided by 5
• split 35 into 5 equally
• how many times does 5 go into 35?
• the quotient of 35 and 5
The final statement is something which may be new to you. If it is, just remember that the
quotient is the number you obtain after the division process. For example, the quotient of 35
and 5 is simply 7.

Some common divisions


There are some facts about division that should be remembered at all times:
• Anything divided by itself is equal to the number 1. E.g. 5031 ÷ 5031 = 1.
• Dividing by the number 0 is not allowed under any circumstances.
• Anything divided by the number 1 remains unchanged. E.g. 14031 ÷ 1 = 14031.
• Zero divided by anything (except zero!) is zero.

1.5 Indicies (powers)


The operation of powers is a shorthand way of writing a number being multiplied by itself
any given amount of times. If, for example, you wanted to write the statement ’four times
four’, you can write it like

4×4
or, using powers, you can write it as

42 ,
which reads as “four raised to the power two” or “four squared”. You might not see why
this is useful with this example, but imagine if you wanted to write five times five times five
times five. This can quickly become very cumbersome. So instead of writing it as a product, it
would make sense to write it as a power:

5×5×5×5 → 54 .
In a similar way, how would you write seven times seven times seven times seven times seven
times seven using powers?

Some common powers


When working with powers, bear in mind the following facts:
• Anything raised to the power of 0 equals 1. E.g. 20180 = 1.
• Anything raised to the power 1 remains unchanged. E.g. 501 = 50.

6
1.6 The order of operations
Now that we have encountered all the operators and operations we’ll be using in this course,
it is time to take a look at the order in which they are prioritised.

The question we’ll be answering here is: “what happens if you have addition, subtraction,
multiplication and division all happening at the same time – which one do you do first?” Say,
for example, we have the statement

23 + 3 − 15 ÷ 5 × 8. (1.2)
What is the answer to this? You might be tempted to work your way from left to right and
just keep doing what the next operator tells you. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works!

To tackle situations as in equation (1.2), you have to follow the order of operations:

B I D M A S,
which is an acronym for: Brackets, Indices, Division, Multiplication, Addition and Subtraction.
Going from left to right, this is the order you must follow. It is very important to memorise
this.

Now we can deal with the problem presented by (1.2). Since there are no brackets or indices,
we first evaluate the division operation, which is 15 ÷ 5 = 3. The problem now becomes:

23 + 3 − 3 × 8.
According to the order of operations, multiplication is next. Since 3 × 8 = 24, we are left with

23 + 3 − 24.
Now you can do the addition and subtraction, which will give a result of 2. So we can safely
say that

23 + 3 − 15 ÷ 5 × 8 = 2.

1.7 Parentheses (brackets)


1.7.1 Types of parentheses and nesting
Parentheses allow us to group different operations together inside of more complex mathe-
matical statements. In simple terms, they help us keep organised and enable us to follow the
order of operations described above.

Parentheses, or brackets, are of three types. You have the round brackets ( ), square
brackets [ ] and curly brackets (or braces), which are { }. I’m going to stick with using
“brackets” instead of parentheses to make things simpler.

7
Nesting is when brackets are required within brackets. The convention is to start by using
round brackets. Then, if more brackets are required, move onto square brackets. Finally if even
more are required, employ curly brackets. Thus, parentheses are nested as:
n o
() . (1.3)

1.7.2 Using parentheses


Suppose you would like to find the result of 15 − 7 + 8 + 14 − 9 + 8 ÷ 2 × 9. We do not yet
have any brackets in place neither are there any indices involved – so we start with division
and simply put round brackets around the division operation:

15 − 7 + 8 + 14 − 9 + (8 ÷ 2) × 9.
Next, we have to put brackets around the multiplication operation. However, notice that the
multiplication operation depends on the result of the division operation, which is already in
brackets. This is where we make use of nesting:
 
15 − 7 + 8 − 14 − 9 + (8 ÷ 2) × 9
We can now proceed to put brackets around the next operation in order, which is addition.
This gives us a final answer as:
n  o
15 − (7 + 8) − 14 − 9 + (8 ÷ 2) × 9
You can put further brackets into the statement above but it isn’t strictly necessary. In fact the
above example is really only for demonstration. In practice, where the brackets go is dictated
by the problem in question. Brackets are far more useful when it comes to algebra – we will
look at this in much more detail in a future course.

1.8 Worked Examples


1.8.1 Example 1: Reducing multiplication problems

Problem
Evaluate the product 417 × 8 mentally.

Solution
Armed with the knowledge of brackets, you can now reduce multiplication problems –
like with addition and subtraction – in order to solve them mentally.

Start by splitting the number 417 into a sum of more familiar numbers. An example is:

417 = 400 + 10 + 7.
What does our problem look like now? If we were to simply rewrite the question as
400 + 10 + 7 × 8 and apply BIDMAS, we will get

400 + 10 + 56 = 466,
which is clearly incorrect. So what have we done wrong?

8
The mistake here is in the fact that once the number 417 is split up, it must be put
inside brackets, so our problem should be written as:

417 × 8 → (400 + 10 + 7) × 8.
Putting 400 + 10 + 7 inside brackets changes the meaning of the statement. It now
means that everything inside the brackets must be multiplied by the number 8, so we
end up with:
 
(400 + 10 + 7) × 8 → (400 × 8) + (10 × 8) + (7 × 8) ,
which, with a little practice, is something you can do mentally and is equal to 3336.
Thus, we can say that:

417 × 8 = 3336.
This technique can be used to tackle even more complex problems, but we will look at
that in the third course in this series.

1.8.2 Example 2: More on BIDMAS

Problem  
Evaluate the statement (3 + 4)2 + 3 × 8 + 12.

Solution
The way to tackle this is to apply BIDMAS, which tells us to evaluate what is going
on inside the brackets first. We have to work our way outwards from the brackets, so
starting with the innermost round brackets, we have 3 + 4 = 7, so our problem becomes
 2 
7 + 3 × 8 + 12.
Notice that once we have fully evaluated what is inside the brackets, we can safely
remove them.

Now since 72 = 49 and 49 + 3 = 52, we are left with

52 × 8 + 12.
Lastly, 52 × 8 = 416 as can be found using the method above, and 416 + 12 = 428. So
our final answer is:

(3 + 4)2 + 3 × 8 + 12 = 428.
 

9
1.8.3 Example 3: A little more on brackets

Problemn o2
Evaluate [(4 × 8) ÷ 2]2 − [(411 − 381) ÷ 2]2 .

Solution
Start by working out the two innermost round brackets. This gives us
n o2
[32 ÷ 2]2 − [30 ÷ 2]2 .
Working out the square brackets next gives
n o2
162 − 152 .

Since 162 = 256 and 152 = 225, we have


n o2
256 − 225 .

Knowing that 256 − 225 = 31, our final step is to find 312 , which is most easily done by
means of a calculator, giving an answer of 961. Putting it all together, we have:
n o2
2 2
[(4 × 8) ÷ 2] − [(411 − 381) ÷ 2] = 961.

10
1.9 Exercise 1 - Basic Math Operations
1. Describe the difference between an operator and an operation.

2. Explain the importance of communicating mathematics using correct syntax.

3. Using the methods highlighted above for addition and subtraction, answer the following
mentally:

(a) 433 + 81
(b) 126 + 651
(c) 41 + 961
(d) 72 + 301 - 108
(e) 403 - 214
(f) 1092 - 562

4. Evaluate mentally the product of:

(a) 312 and 7


(b) 452 and 6
(c) 981 and 3
(d) 1033 and 4
(e) 181 and 7

5. Evaluate mentally the statement (38 + 74) × 3.

6. Evaluate mentally the sum of 143 and 418 and the product of the result with 8.

7. Using BIDMAS, find:


 
(a) 4 + (3 × 8) + 8 ÷ 4
 
(b) (4 + 3) × 8 + (8 ÷ 4)

Why are your answers different?

8. Using your calculator, evaluate:

(a) (47 + 109)2 ÷ 1083


 2
(b) (32 + 52 )3 ÷ (190 ÷ 5)
n 2 o2
(c) (102 − 97)3 ÷ (52 + 17)2 ÷ (202 ÷ 10)

11
“Mathematics is the door and key of the
sciences and things of this world...”
Roger Bacon

Fractions: Parts and Wholes


2
Fractions are hugely important. Absolutely massively important. I’ll go as far as to say that
handling fractions is the most important skill one must acquire in mathematics. If you master
fractions along with syntax, your worries with numbers and algebra will start becoming a thing
of the past.

Unfortunately, fractions – as they are taught in schools – quickly become confusing and
frustrating to deal with. In this section, I will take you through my way of dealing with
fractions.

2.1 Introducing fractions


2.1.1 Defining fractions
A fraction is simply a part of something – the opposite to a whole number. A fraction of a
cake would be a slice of it. Different-sized slices would represent different fractions of the cake.

Fractions are written as one number over another. Suppose you would like to represent half
of a cake as a fraction. The fraction “half” can be spoken another way as “one in two”. You
can even say “one out of two”. All of these mean the same thing, which you would write
mathematically as
1
.
2

Thus, a fraction is made up of two parts. You have the numerator, which is always the
part on the top. Then you have the denominator, which is always the part on the bottom.
This fact is worth committing to memory.

2.2 Numerators and denominators


The denominator of a fraction shows you how many parts something is split up into. The
numerator shows you how many of these parts you are considering.

12
Suppose I split a cake into four slices. If I want three slices, how would I represent the amount
of cake I am claiming for myself as a fraction? Since the cake is being divided into four parts,
the denominator must be 4. Since I want three of those parts, the numerator must be 3. So
3
this fraction would be written as , which is another way of saying “3 parts out of 4”. You
4
may also recognise this fraction as three quarters.

As another example, if I chop a piece of wood into seven parts and sell four of them, what
4
fraction of the original piece of wood have I sold? The answer is .
7
That’s how easy it is...‘wood’ you believe it? Excuse the pun.

With enough practice, you won’t even need to think about numerators and denominators – you
will just know which one is which.

2.3 Maths with Fractions


Let’s take a look at how to use the four operators (+, −, ×, ÷) with fractions. There are
some rules to remember but once you know them, it’ll be as easy as 1, 2, 3!

2.3.1 Fraction addition and subtraction


We’ll start with the easiest fractions to add and subtract – the ones which have the same
denominators.

Common denominator fractions


1 2
Suppose you want to add the fraction with . These fractions both have the same de-
5 5
nominator, which is 5. In maths, we say that the denominator is common between the two
fractions. So how do you add them? All you have to do is add the numerators and keep the
denominator the same:
1 2 1+2 3
+ −→ =
5 5 5 5
and that’s all there is to it. Subtraction is exactly the same but instead of adding the numera-
5 2
tors, you find the difference between them. So if you wanted to find the result of − , the
7 7
answer would be
5 2 5−2 3
− −→ = .
7 7 7 7

Different denominator fractions


1 2
What if we want to add the fraction with ? Most teachers would show you how to do
3 5
so using the lowest common multiple method. I want to show you a different way – it’s like a
little puzzle. Just follow the steps below:

13
Step 1 Multiply the numerator of the first fraction with the denominator of the second
fraction. Then put this number on the top of a new fraction:

Step 2 Multiply the denominator of the first fraction with the numerator of the second.
Again, put the result on the top of the new fraction:

Step 3 Multiply the two denominators. The result is the denominator of your new fraction:

Step 5 Finally, copy and paste the operator between the two fractions. This could be + or
−. In this case we have +:

You then perform the calculation in the numerator of your new fraction, which in this case is
5 + 6. So our final answer is:
1 2 5+6 11
+ −→ = .
3 5 15 15
And there you have it! This is how you add fractions. Subtraction works exactly the same way.
Just be sure to copy and paste the correct operator in Step 5.

4 2
Try this one yourself. What is − ? When you’re ready, turn over to the next page to see
5 7
the answer.

14
4 2 28 − 10 18
− −→ = .
5 7 35 35
It is very important to memorise the steps above for adding/subtracting fractions. It will serve
you very well later on.

2.4 Multiplying Fractions


2.4.1 Multiplying fractions with fractions
Multiplication of fractions is perhaps the easiest operation to work with. All you have to do
is multiply the two numerators to get the numerator of your new fraction. Then multiply the
two denominators to get the denominator of your new fraction.

2 1
So what would be the result of × ? Let’s work it out:
3 4
2 1 2×1 2
× −→ = .
3 4 3×4 12

2.4.2 Multiplying fractions with whole numbers


When multiplying a fraction by a whole number, you simply multiply the numerator of the
5
fraction by that whole number. For example, if you wanted to find the product of and 3,
16
the answer is:
5 5×3 15
×3 −→ = .
16 16 16
And there you have it.

2.5 Dividing Fractions


2.5.1 Dividing fractions by fractions
Division of fractions is just a little trickier than multiplying because there is one extra step
to do – and that is to turn the second fraction on its head. Once you have done so, simply
change the ÷ to a × operator and do exactly what you did above to multiply the two fractions.

5 2
Let’s try an example. What is the result of ÷ ? Turn the second fraction on its head
13 7
and then change the operation to multiplication:
5 2 5 7
÷ −→ ×
13 7 3 2
and then multiply as normal:
5 7 5×7 35
× = = .
3 2 3×2 6

15
7 2
and
Now try one for yourself. Find the quotient of . What do you get?
9 5
7 2 7×5 35
÷ −→ = .
9 5 9×2 18

2.5.2 Dividing fractions by whole numbers


This is accomplished by the same means as when you divide two fractions. However, you
must turn the whole number into a fraction. This is a little cheat. The way you do this is by
dividing the whole number by 1 and writing it as a fraction instead of division. Then proceed
as described above.

3
As an example, what is the quotient of and 4? First write the problem out:
7
3
÷4
7
4
and then write 4 as . Remember this is the same as “4 divided by 1” and dividing by 1 doesn’t
1
change anything. Now you can rewrite the problem as
3 4
÷
7 1
3
and work it out as described above in Section 2.5.1. Your final answer should be .
28

4
If you are wondering why the number 4 is the same as the fraction , then think of it like
1
this: if you have four sweets that you want to divide equally to one person, how many sweets
would that person get?

2.5.3 Dividing whole numbers by fractions


Once you know how to divide fractions by whole numbers, this is just as easy. Rewrite the
whole number as a fraction and proceed as normal.

3 7
Can you work out 7 ÷ ? Since 7 = , our problem becomes
10 1
7 3 7 10 70
÷ −→ × , which is .
1 10 1 3 3
Always remember that it is the second fraction which must be turned upside-down.

2.6 Fractions and division


There is a very interesting relationship between fractions and division. In fact, it so happens
that a fraction really is just division – a division of the numerator by the denominator. You
can actually write fractions as division and vice-versa. No exceptions.

16
Suppose you wanted to divide 2 sweets equally into 4 people. How many sweets would each
person get? “Half a sweet”, I hear you say. Well, what you did in your head to reach this
1 2 3
answer is 2 ÷ 4. We already know that “half” = , or , or and so on. So what we see is
2 4 6
2
2 ÷ 4 is the same as .
4

Interestingly enough, if you pay attention to the division operator, you’ll notice that it looks
just like a fraction:

See? Just like a fraction. You should now be convinced that any fraction is just the numerator
divided by the denominator.

2.7 More on fraction addition and subtraction


You can perform addition and subtraction between whole numbers and fractions using the
same steps as for adding two fractions. However, you must apply the trick you just learned
for converting whole numbers into fractions. Once you have done so, proceed as described in
Section 2.3.1.

1 2
How would you then find the result of 2 + ? Write 2 as then follow the fraction addition
3 1
steps:
2 1 6+1 7
+ = = .
1 3 3 3

7
How about 1 − ? Give it a shot and see what you get. The answer should be...
9
7 2
1− = .
9 9

2.8 Simplifying fractions


In Section 2.6, we saw that two fractions that look different might actually mean the same
1 2 1 3
thing. For example, is the same as . Similarly, is the same as . Can you spot the
2 4 5 15
pattern and explain why?

If you multiply the numerator and denominator of a fraction by the same number, the
resulting fraction is the same as the original.
6
Suppose I give you the fraction . Is this the simplest that this fraction can be? By
36
“simple”, what we mean is that both the numerator and denominator cannot be divided by
any single whole number. Follow the steps below to simplify:

17
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