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How to work with Fractions


If you don’t like learning about fractions,  you would have been happy in Maths lessons centuries ago!  Fractions as we use them today did not exist in Europe until the 17th century.

However, the Egyptians used them from 1800BC – with pictures called hieroglyphs.  They wrote them as unit fractions, in other words in the form 1/n. This made the maths much more complicated, as they could not write 2/3, but would write it using unit fractions, for example as 1/2  + 1/6. The Egyptians tried to overcome this by making lots of tables to look up answers instead of working them out. The ancient Romans used words to write them, not numbers. For example 2/7 would be written as “duae septimae”.

It is the Indian civilisation which first developed a number system of writing fractions, in a way very similar to what we used today. They placed the numerator above the denominator but did not have a line between them. The Arabs then added the line which we used today to separate them. That line is called a vinculum, which also means a connecting band of tissue.

It is hard now to imagine life without them.  We use them daily, when telling the time, shopping, cooking, or  buying burgers! Imagine ordering a quarter pounder with cheese, without the quarter, or trying to tell someone the time without being able to say half or quarter past.

If you ever struggle with fractions, or just need a reminder, check out our “How to work with Fractions” guide.  This will explain how to solve  problems for all ages, from working out equivalent fractions in primary to solving algebraic fractions in Year 11. It  also covers calculations, fractions of amounts and ordering.

Click on the picture below to view our useful guide.

Come back and check our blog page for more resources to help you improve your understanding of different topics in various subjects. New Maths and Science guides will be coming soon.

If you found this useful and think you would benefit from some additional help, please contact us.


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