One of the most common difficulties for students of math is working with fractions. There really are two ways to think about what a fraction represents, and it is crucial to grasp them both to avoid misunderstandings in more advanced math classes. This article will explain what fractions are and how to interpret them.

A fraction is made of a numerator and a denominator. Let’s look at a sample fraction: ¾. The numerator is the number on top, 3, in this example. The denominator is the number on the bottom, 4. A fraction is not a whole number, but a part of a whole number. Just what “a part of a whole number” actually means can be explained in two ways.

The easiest way of thinking about a fraction is to imagine a pie. The numerator represents how many slices of pie you need, while the denominator represents how many slices in the whole pie. A whole pie is 4 slices, and we need 3, so we take ¾ of the pie.

The most basic way to think of a fraction is as an operation of division. When we have ¾ of something, we are dividing 3 by 4, which equals 0.75, or 75%. So ¾ is the same as 75%. Understanding that, at its most essential level, a fraction is simply a division problem helps clear up many difficulties with fractions that arise when the numerator is greater than the denominator. If we switch our fraction around and have 4/3, how can you have 4 slices of pie if there are only 3? Conceptualizing of 4/3 as a division problem also helps explain that even whole numbers can be fractions, but with denominators of 1.

In the end, it is best to understand both explanations of fractions. At The Tutoring Center in Houston we have significant experience working with students who struggle with fractions and other mathematical concepts. We offer one-to-one tutoring in Houston in math, reading, writing, and test preparation to students of all levels. Our programs are flexible, after-school, and even over the summer. Visit us online to find out more about our academic programs. And give us a call at 713-589-7061 to schedule a free diagnostic assessment.