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Fractions may look funky at first, but they're actually really useful once we get the hang of them.
The great news is, we're already pros at fractions. We've been thinking about fractions since our rugrat days (even if we didn't know it). Want proof?
We talk about times like "a quarter past two" or "half past three." We know how to split up a pizza into thirds, so with our two friends we all get equal amounts. We've used measuring cups for baking. We're hoarding the half-dollar our Grandma gave us, and we know how to spend three-fourths of our free time playing video games. All fractions.
Fractions are just parts of a whole object, like parts of an hour, parts of a sandwich, or parts of a dollar.
Start with a circle to represent 1 whole.
If we divide this circle into 2 equal pieces, we get two halves. Each side of the circle below represents ("one half") of the total circle.
There's on the left and on the right. The numerator 1 in means we've got 1 piece, and the denominator 2 means it takes 2 pieces to make the whole circle.
Divide it into 3 equal pieces, and we get three thirds. Each piece below represents of the entire circle.
By the way, the fraction is called a unit fraction. It represents only one piece and always has a 1 in the numerator. If we wanted two pieces of the circle, we'd write that as .
Now divide the whole circle into 4 equal pieces and we get four 's.
See what we mean? If we know pizza, we know fractions. Here are a few more.
Let's also try to visualize these fractions on a number line. Here we have a number line stretching from 0 to 1.
If we divide it in half, we get two parts, or halves:
Here it is divided into thirds:
All together now!
We know that probably looks weird, so stick with us. We'll explain why some of those fractions are equal on the next page.