One of the basic math skills that a child will learn in school is how to take a fraction and reduce it to its lowest terms. This process is also called simplifying a fraction. A fraction is known as two numbers divided by a line. The number above the line is called a numerator while the one below is called the denominator. If the numerator and denominator can be divided by the same number, as long as it is greater than one, then it can be reduced to its lowest term or level. There is a specific process to follow to ensure that you can do it if it comes up in your life.
1. Find the GCF. The GCF or greatest common factor is a number that can divide the numerator and denominator evenly. Conventionally, the GCF is the largest possible divisible number that can be used to reduce a fraction. Searching for the GCF is not as difficult as it seems. To find it, create a list of factors for the numerator and denominator. Once you list the factors for each down, compare it and take note of the numbers in both lists that are common to both. Select and write down the largest common number found on the lists. For instance, if you have a fraction with a numerator of 16 and a denominator of 24, the factors of the numerator is 1, 2, 4, 8, and 16 while the factors of the denominator will be 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 24. If you will notice, the common factors are 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8. Since 8 is the largest common factor, this will be the GCF.
Finding the GCF can be done using many methods and tricks. While some of these methods may claim to give you an easier way to find what you need, these are truly not as correct and practical methods at all. In fact, some of these methods can even confuse. To ensure you do not get confused and make a mistake, use the method stated above.
2. Divide the numerator and denominator. As soon as you find the GCF for the fraction, it is time to divide the numerator and denominator by it. With the example 16/24, divide 16 by 8 and you will get a new numerator that is 2. Dividing the denominator, which is 24 by 8, will garner you a new denominator which is 3. With this process, you have reduced the 16/24 fraction into 2/3, which is a lower term.
3. Try to reduce 2/3 to a lowest term. Now that you have reduced 16/24 into 2/3, your next step is to determine the next factor to reduce 2/3 further. However, the only divisible factor left is 1. Dividing the numerator and denominator by 1 will not change the fraction at all. In this case, 2/3 is a fraction at its lowest term.
This process is actually the right way to reduce a fraction. Through practice and patience, you should be able to master the process without having to write it on paper.