Subtracting fractions in 3 simple steps

Pie Chart Fractions Maths 2020

Fractions are a challenging subject to grasp in maths. Helping children with subtracting  fractions doesn’t have to be a difficult task though…

Follow our top tips on subtracting fractions in 3 simple steps!

1. Basic rules:

  • The top number is called the numerator.
  • The bottom number is called the denominator. This can be remembered as ‘d’ stands for denominator and down, as it’s at the bottom.
  • Whatever is done to the denominator, must be done to the numerator.

2. Subtracting fractions with the same denominators

  • As the denominators are the same, all that needs to be done is subtracting the numerators.


2/3 – 1/3

2 – 1 = 1

= 1/3

3. Subtracting fractions with different denominators

  • The first step is finding the common denominator of the fractions being subtracted.
  • This means that the bottom numbers need to be the same,
  • To do this, find a number that both bottom numbers go into – a multiple of that number.
  • For example, if the denominators are 4 and 8, both of these are a multiple of 8.
  • It’s important to remember that whatever is done to the denominator, must be done to the numerator.


7/8 – 1/4 (Make the denominators the same)

7/8 – 1/8 (Do the same to the numerators)

1 x 2 = 2

7/8 – 2/8

Now subtract the numerators.

7-2 = 5

= 5/8

Top tips:

  • Try drawing out the equations so it can be visualised. You can draw it like a pie:

so this represents 1/4

 and this is 1/3

  • Or try asking it as a word problem.
  • For example, Jessica has 1/3 of a chocolate bar. She gives her brother 1/2 of this. How much of the chocolate bar does she have left?

Subtracting fractions in 3 simple steps has never been easier!

Firstly teach your child the basic rules, labelling the numerator and denominator.

When the denominators are the same, the numerator simply has to be subtracted to get the answer.

When the denominators are different, a multiple of both denominators needs to be found.

Once this is complete, the same must be done to the numerator. Finally, subtract the fractions!


For additional  help with subtracting fractions, click here.

If you are interested with other maths activities, like teaching times tables, find out more here.

Tara Proudfoot