Simplifying Fractions: Examples & Explanation

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  • 0:01 Fractions
  • 1:08 Why Simplify Fractions?
  • 1:33 How to Simplify Fractions
  • 2:10 Examples
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Beddoe

Jennifer has an MS in Chemistry and a BS in Biological Sciences.

The process of simplifying fractions requires you to reduce a fraction to its smallest form. This lesson will give two methods for simplifying fractions, and a quiz at the end will allow for some practice.


Have you ever eaten a whole pizza? Maybe not, but if you've ever eaten part of a pizza and saved the rest for later, you've eaten a fraction of a pizza. Say this was your pizza, sliced into 5 even pieces. What if you eat 3 of the 5 pieces? You can relate the amount of pizza you ate as a fraction, 3/5, which means there are 2/5 of the pizza leftover for lunch tomorrow.

A fraction represents part of a whole number. The numerator (or top number) tells you how many pieces you are talking about, and the denominator (the bottom number) is how many pieces make up the whole. As for your pizza, you ate 3 pieces, so for this fraction the numerator is 3, and there were 5 pieces in total, so the denominator is 5. There are three types of fractions:

  1. Proper fractions, where the numerator is less than the denominator
  2. Improper fractions, where the numerator is higher than (or equal to) the denominator
  3. Mixed fractions, a whole number and proper fraction combined

Why Simplify Fractions?

Simplifying fractions is the process of reducing the numerator and denominator to their smallest whole numbers so the fraction is in its simplest form. In mathematics, it is always important to make sure everything is in its simplest form. This helps other mathematicians or scientists to easily interpret data and can also help avoid confusion when numbers and equations become large and complex.

How to Simplify Fractions

There are two methods for simplifying fractions. The first method is to divide the numerator and denominator until you can't simplify any further. It's very important when you are dividing that at each step you divide the numerator and denominator by the same number. This will keep the fraction equivalent. The second method is to divide each number by the greatest common factor (GCF). The GCF is the largest number that will divide into both numbers evenly. It is calculated by listing the factors of each number and determining which is the greatest.


1. Use the first method described to simplify 120/180.

Divide both the numerator and denominator by 2 to get 60/90.

Divide both the numerator and denominator of 60/90 by 3 to get 20/30.

Divide both the numerator and denominator of 20/30 by 5 to get 4/6.

Divide both the numerator and denominator of 4/6 by 2 to get 2/3.

The fraction 2/3 is in its simplest form.

2. Find the GCF of 36 and 54.

The factors of 36 are 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18, and 36.

The factors of 54 are 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 18, 27, and 54.

The common factors of 36 and 54 are 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, and 18.

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