Basic Fractions: Subtracting Fractions (Part 2)

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In this section you will learn to subtract a fraction from a mixed number or a whole number.

Please review these sections if necessary:

Fractions Explained

Mixed Number and Equivalent Fractions

Subtracting Fractions

Subtracting a Fraction from a Mixed Number

Example 1

Note that the fractions have the same denominators and the first fraction is larger than the second:

Step 1: Write down the whole number without changing it.

Step 2: Carry out the subtraction of the fractions.

Step 3: Add the result to the whole number you wrote earlier:

Example 2

In this example, the fractions have the same denominators but the first fraction is smaller than the second.

The first step is to change the mixed number like this:

Reduce the whole number by 1.
Change the 1 into a fraction to add to its original fraction.
Now you have a new mixed number with an improper fraction.

So now we have:

Which is easy to subtract!

Example 3

In this example, the fractions have different or unlike denominators.

The first thing to do is to change the fractions to their equivalent fraction forms so they have like denominators.

Go through the relevant multiplication tables till you have a common multiple. In this example the common multiple is 15.

Use the equivalent fractions to subtract:

Note: If the first fraction is smaller than the second, follow the procedure in example 2 shown above.

Subtracting a Fraction from a Whole Number

The main idea to subtracting a fraction from a whole number is to divide one of the whole numbers into the required number of portions.


(we have to subtract three-quarters from four wholes)

We divide one of the wholes into four quarters as shown:

This allows us to rewrite the whole number as a mixed number:

Now we can do the subtraction easily to get the answer:

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