How to Subtract Fractions with Common Denominators
As with addition, subtracting fractions that have the same denominator (also called a common denominator) is very simple: Just subtract the second numerator from the first and keep the denominator the same. In some cases, you may have to reduce the answer to lowest terms.
Subtracting fractions that have different denominators takes a bit more work. You need to increase the terms of one or both fractions so both fractions have the same denominator. The easiest way to do this is to use cross-multiplication:
Cross-multiply the two fractions and create two fractions that have a common denominator.
Subtract the results from Step 1.
When one denominator is a factor of the other, you can use a quick trick to find a common denominator: Increase only the terms of the fraction with the lower denominator to make both denominators the same.
The denominators are both 6, so subtract the numerators (5 and 1) to get the new numerator, and keep the denominator the same:
The numerator and denominator are both even numbers, so you can reduce the fraction by a factor of 2:
The denominators are different, but because 28 is a multiple of 7, you can use the quick trick described earlier. Increase the terms of 6/7 so that its denominator is 28; because 28 = 7 x 4, multiply both the numerator and denominator by 4:
Now both fractions have the same denominator, so subtract the numerators and keep the same denominator:
Both the numerator and denominator are divisible by 7, so you can reduce this fraction by a factor of 7:
Following are answers to the practice questions:
The denominators are the same, so subtract the numerators and keep the same denominator:
The numerator and denominator are both even, so reduce this fraction by a factor of 2:
The denominators are different, so change them to a common denominator by cross-multiplying. The new numerators are 4 x 3 = 12 and 1 x 5 = 5:
The new denominators are 5 x 3 = 15:
Now you can subtract:
The denominators are different, but 6 is a factor of 12, so you can use the quick trick. Increase the terms of
so that the denominator is 12, multiplying both the numerator and the denominator by 2:
Now the two fractions have the same denominator, so you can subtract easily:
The numerator and denominator are both divisible by 3, so reduce the fraction by a factor of 3: