Algebra Tutorials!
About Us


Absolute Values
Solving Two-Step Equations Algebraically
Multiplying Monomials
Factoring Trinomials
Solving Quadratic Equations
Power Functions and Transformations
Composition of Functions
Rational Inequalities
Equations of Lines
Graphing Logarithmic Functions
Elimination Using Multiplication
Multiplying Large Numbers
Multiplying by 11
Graphing Absolute Value Inequalities
The Discriminant
Reducing Numerical Fractions to Simplest Form
Addition of Algebraic Fractions
Graphing Inequalities in Two Variables
Adding and Subtracting Rational Expressions with Unlike Denominators
Multiplying Binomials
Graphing Linear Inequalities
Properties of Numbers and Definitions
Factoring Trinomials
Relatively Prime Numbers
Rotating a Hyperbola
Writing Algebraic Expressions
Quadratic and Power Inequalities
Solving Quadratic Equations by Completing the Square
BEDMAS & Fractions
Solving Absolute Value Equations
Writing Linear Equations in Slope-Intercept Form
Adding and Subtracting Rational Expressions with Different Denominators
Reducing Rational Expressions
Solving Absolute Value Equations
Equations of a Line - Slope-intercept form
Adding and Subtracting Rational Expressions with Unlike Denominators
Solving Equations with a Fractional Exponent
Simple Trinomials as Products of Binomials
Equivalent Fractions
Multiplying Polynomials
Graphing Equations in Three Variables
Properties of Exponents
Graphing Linear Inequalities
Solving Cubic Equations by Factoring
Adding and Subtracting Fractions
Multiplying Whole Numbers
Straight Lines
Solving Absolute Value Equations
Solving Nonlinear Equations
Factoring Polynomials by Finding the Greatest Common Factor
Algebraic Expressions Containing Radicals 1
Addition Property of Equality
Three special types of lines
Quadratic Inequalities That Cannot Be Factored
Adding and Subtracting Fractions
Coordinate System
Solving Equations
Factoring Polynomials
Solving Quadratic Equations
Multiplying Radical Expressions
Solving Quadratic Equations Using the Square Root Property
The Slope of a Line
Square Roots
Adding Polynomials
Arithmetic with Positive and Negative Numbers
Solving Equations
Powers and Roots of Complex Numbers
Adding, Subtracting and Finding Least Common Denominators
What the Factored Form of a Quadratic can tell you about the graph
Plotting a Point
Solving Equations with Variables on Each Side
Finding the GCF of a Set of Monomials
Completing the Square
Solving Equations with Radicals and Exponents
Solving Systems of Equations By Substitution
Adding and Subtracting Rational Expressions
Laws of Exponents and Dividing Monomials
Factoring Special Quadratic Polynomials
Solving Quadratic Equations by Completing the Square
Reducing Numerical Fractions to Simplest Form
Factoring Trinomials
Writing Decimals as Fractions
Using the Rules of Exponents
Evaluating the Quadratic Formula
Rationalizing the Denominator
Multiplication by 429
Writing Linear Equations in Point-Slope Form
Multiplying Radicals
Dividing Polynomials by Monomials
Factoring Trinomials
Introduction to Fractions
Square Roots
Try the Free Math Solver or Scroll down to Tutorials!












Please use this form if you would like
to have this math solver on your website,
free of charge.

Adding and Subtracting Fractions

It is not difficult to visualize what it means to add two fractions, as in

As explained before, each of the two fractions represents dividing a whole into a certain number of equal-sized pieces, and including a certain number of those pieces. So, we can represent the two fractions above pictorially as

Thus, 3 / 4 represents 3 pieces, each of which is 1 / 4 of the whole, and 2 / 3 represents 2 pieces, each 1 / 3 of the whole. Then, to form the sum

we need to come up with a fraction representing how much of a whole we get when we combine all five shaded pieces in the diagrams above. The difficulty is that we can’t just count up the number of shaded pieces to be 5 and the total number of pieces to be 7, and so declare the answer to be 5 / 7 (from ), since the pieces are not all the same size to begin with. In fact, you can see that this answer would clearly be wrong, because it represents less than a complete whole, and yet it is obvious from the pictures that the combined shaded areas are much more than a complete whole.

There are several errors in the incorrect procedure just described. The most obvious is that the five smaller shaded bits in the diagram are not all the same size, and so simply counting a total of 5 pieces is not a correct reflection of the combined size of the two fractions. However, there is a way around this problem.

First, divide each of the quarters in the diagram for 3 / 4 into three smaller, equal-sized pieces:

In fact, this diagram is now illustrating both 3 / 4 as well as 9 / 12, because now the whole can also be viewed as being partitioned into 12 equal pieces, of which 9 are shaded.

Secondly, divide each of the thirds in the diagram for 2 / 3 into four smaller equal-sized pieces:

Again, this results in the whole being divided into twelve equal pieces of which eight are shaded.

But now, both diagrams have shaded pieces which are the same size! Each is 1 / 12 of the whole. When the total number of these equal-sized shaded pieces is tallied, we get

9 + 8 = 17

shaded pieces, each of size 1 / 12 of the whole. Thus, we apparently get that

You can verify that this is a plausible result by using your calculator to turn the fractions into decimal numbers and checking the addition.

What this really shows is that we can add two fractions together only if they have the same denominator (and the same rule will apply to subtraction):

because for the sum of the numerators (or the difference of the numerators) to be meaningful, they must refer to pieces of the whole all of which are the same size (that is the same thing as saying that the denominators of the fractions are the same).

Copyrights © 2005-2024
Monday 20th of May