Fractions of a cake (Wikipedia) |

**Note:** What are numerators and denominators? How do we keep them straight? And how do we pronounce fractions in English? The answers are here!

**Get Ready:** Do you have a good understanding of fractions? When did you first learn about them?

Becky is chatting with her classmate Lily in the Common Room of their dorm.

Becky:Hey, Lily.

Lily:Hey, Becks. Can you help me with math for a minute?

Becky:Math? I thought you were a whiz at that!

Lily:I guess I am, sorta. But it's talking about this stuff in English that's got me going around in circles.

Becky:Now,thatI understand. So, what's the problem?

Lily:Fractions.

Becky:Ugh.Nobodyloves fractions. So?

Lily:First, what do you call the top part and the bottom part?

Becky:The top part, like the "one" in one-half, is called the numerator. It tells the number of parts. Get it?

Lily:Yeah. And the bottom half?

Becky:The denominator.Nom-is a root meaning "name"; the denominator names the type of parts, like halves, thirds, quarters, and so on.

Lily:Got it! My teacher keeps talking about "least common denominators."

Becky:Least whaha?

Lily:When you add or subtract two fractions with different denominators, you have to find a denominator both can share.

Becky:Uh. Huh.

Lily:Like to add 1/3 and 1/6, you can use...

Becky:Eighteen!

Lily:Well, you can, but that's not theleast. Actually, six is the LCD of both three and six.

Becky:Oh. Sooo... we change 1/3 to 2/6, and 2/6 + 1/6 = 3/6. Right?

Lily:Yes, but now you have to reduce that fraction.

Becky:Reduce it to what?

Lily:Well, 3/6 is the same as 1/2, so that's the best answer.

Becky:Wow, you reallyarea whiz!

Lily:C'mon, Becky; this is kid's stuff.

Becky:Not for me! By the way, let me tell you one more thing: when we say the numerator, we use "counting numbers": one, two, three, etc.

Lily:Right.

Becky:And for denominators, we use "ordinal numbers": third, fourth, fifth, etc., plus their plurals, like twothirds, threequarters, etc.

Lily:Isn't there something special about denominators of two and four?

Becky:Well, we never sayseconds. That would be "half" or "halves." And we whilecansay fourths, we might also say quarters, like I just did: threequarters.

Lily:Wow! Thanks for teaching me English, Becky!

Becky:Thanks for teaching me math, Lily!

**NOTE:** Here are some pronunciation examples: 1/2 = one half; 3/2 = three halves; 2/3 = two thirds; 3/4 = three fourths or three quarters; 1/5 = one fifth; 5/6 = five sixths; 6/7 = six sevenths; 1/8 = one eighth; 7/9 = seven ninths

*Read more:* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraction

**Practice:** Match the term to its definition or pronunciation below:

- 1/2
- 1/3
- 1/6
- 2/6 + 1/6 = 3/6
- denominator
- fractions
- least common denominator
- Least whaha?
- Now, THAT I understand
- numerator
- reduce a fraction
- this is kid's stuff
- going around in circles
- Uh. Huh.
- whiz

- pronounced "two sixths plus one sixth equals three sixths."
- I understand that; it can be used with different verbs.
- pronounced "one sixth"
- the "2" in 2/3; the top of the fraction. It tells the number of parts.
- pronounced "one third"
- someone who's good at something
- also called LCD, it's the lowest denominator we can use to add or subtract fractions with different denominators
- bring a fraction to its lowest terms, as in the example
- numbers like 1/2, 2/3, etc. that describe part of something
- the "3" in 3/5; the bottom of the fraction. It names the type of parts.
- confused
- pronounced "one half"
- Becky isn't getting it, so says "uh-huh" (meaning "yes") slowly.
- a joking question because she didn't understand something
- This is easy

*Answers are in the first comment below.*

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 12, 2012

This lesson received **202 visits** on my old site between March, 2012, and July, 2021.

Answers to the Practice: 1. l; 2. e; 3. c; 4. a; 5. j; 6. i; 7. g; 8. n; 9. b; 10. d; 11. h; 12. o; 13. k; 14. m; 15. f

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