Comparing Fractions With Like & Unlike Denominators: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Lynn Knott

Lynn has taught 1st and 3rd grade and has a master's degree in Educational Leadership.

In this lesson, you will learn how to compare fractions with like and unlike denominators by using greater-than, less-than and equal-to symbols. While this may seem complicated, it's actually quite simple. You can easily compare any fractions with just a few basic steps.

What is a Fraction?

You and your brother had pizza for lunch. You had 3/8 of the pizza, and your brother ate 2/4 of it. Who ate more pizza? To answer this question, you must know how to compare fractions.

A fraction is a number that's part of a whole. In a fraction, there's a bottom number called the denominator, which tells us how many pieces the whole is divided into. There's also a top number called the numerator, and it tells us how many parts of the whole we have.

The fraction 3/8
Image of a fraction with the numerator and denominator labeled.

In our example, the numerator is 3, and the denominator is 8. This tells us that you have eaten 3 out of the 8 pieces of the whole pizza.

Math Symbols

Sometimes, math problems do not use numbers or even words to express parts of the equation. The math problem may contain a symbol, a special shape that replaces words.

Common math symbols

Notice that the shapes of the greater-than and less-than symbols look like the tip of an arrow pointing in different directions. An easy way to make sure you have the right symbol is to point the tip of the arrow to the smaller number. Let's look at some examples:


These symbols are important when comparing fractions, which means we determine if they're equal or if one is greater than or less than the other.

Comparing Like Fractions

Like fractions are two or more fractions in which the denominators (bottom numbers) are the same, which tells us they each represent a whole that is divided into the same number of parts. For instance, 3/8 and 5/8 are like fractions.

3/8 has a smaller numerator than 5/8, so we use the less-than symbol in between.
Comparison of the fractions 3/8 and 5/8.

Comparing like fractions is fairly easy. All you have to do is compare the numerators. If the first fraction has the smaller numerator, it's less than the other. If it has the larger numerator, it's greater than the other. If the numerators are the same, they are equal.

Comparing Unlike Fractions

Unlike fractions have different denominators (bottom numbers), so they represent wholes divided into different numbers of parts. To compare unlike fractions, we have to change the denominators so they match.

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