fraction: Characteristics of Fractions

When the numerator is less than the denominator, the fraction is proper, i.e., less than unity. When the reverse is true, e.g.,   5⁄2 , the fraction is improper, i.e., greater than unity. When a fraction is written with a whole number, e.g., 3   1⁄2 , the expression is called a mixed number. This may also be written as an improper fraction, as   7⁄2 , since three is equal to six halves, and by adding the one half, the total becomes seven halves, or   7⁄2 . A fraction has been reduced to its lowest terms when the numerator and denominator are not divisible by any common divisor except 1, e.g., when   4⁄6 is reduced to   2⁄3 .

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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