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Unlike Fractions: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Are Fractions?
  • 0:42 Parts of a Fraction
  • 1:07 Like and Unlike Fractions
  • 4:02 Unlike Fraction Examples
  • 5:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Matalone

Stephanie taught high school science and math and has a Master's Degree in Secondary Education.

This lesson will teach you how to identify unlike fractions, which are fractions with different numbers in the denominator. We will also explore simplifying fractions and how a group of fractions that started out as unlike may be reduced to like fractions that can be added or subtracted.

What Are Fractions?

So you have a few friends over and grab some food. You have one pizza and three cans of soda to share between the four of you. How do you decide how much to give each friend? Well, you can use fractions, which are just whole numbers divided by other whole numbers. Let's start with the pizzas. Take your pizza and divide it by the four people for a fraction of 1/4. Take your three cans of soda and divide them by the four people for a fraction of 3/4. Each person gets 1/4 of the pizza and 3/4 of a soda!

Parts of a Fraction

Now, to decide if these fractions are like or unlike we need to identify the numerators and denominators. Numerators are the numbers on top of the fraction bar, while denominators are the numbers on the bottom of the fraction bar. In our pizza and soda example, the number of people would be the denominator because it is on the bottom of both fractions.

Like and Unlike Fractions

For a group of fractions to be like, they have to have the same number in the denominator. In other words, they have to have the same number on the bottom of the fraction bar. In our example, the pizza and soda were both being split between four people. Four was the denominator in both of those fractions. For fractions to be unlike, they have to have different numbers in the denominator. In other words, they have to have different numbers on the bottom of the fraction bar.

Back to our pizza example, in order to have unlike fractions you would need to split the pizza between a different number of people than the soda (maybe one of your friends only drinks water). This would change our fractions like so: each person gets 1/4 of the pizza and 3/3 of a soda. 1/4 and 3/4 are like fractions because they both have four in the denominator. On the other hand, 1/4 and 3/3 are unlike fractions because they have different numbers in the denominator. One fraction has 4 in the denominator, while the other has 3. 4 and 3 are different numbers.

Do not forget that fractions can be simplified or reduced if the numerator and denominator can be divided by the same number. For example, the fraction 2/4 can be simplified or reduced because both the numerator (2) and the denominator (4) can be divided by two. When you do this, the simplified fraction becomes 1/2. 6/8 and 1/4 are unlike fractions but when reduced 3/4 and 1/4 are actually like fractions because they both have a denominator of 4.

Make sure you simplify fractions all the way. For example, 16/40 can be simplified by dividing both 16 and 40 by 2, which will give the fraction 8/20. But, 8 and 20 can also be divided by 2, which gives the fraction 4/10. Are we done yet? No, 4 and 10 can also be divided by 2, which gives the simplest fraction of 2/5. A simpler way to do this is go back to the original fraction of 16/40 and see what is the largest number that 16 and 40 can both be divided by. They both can be divided by 8, which will bring you right to the simplest fraction of 2/5 instead of going through all those steps.

Why is this important? The only time you can add and subtract fractions are when they are like. Unlike fractions cannot be added or subtracted. Unlike fractions, on the other hand, can still be multiplied and divided.

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