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Dividing fractions: 3/5 ÷ 1/2

Dividing two fractions is the same as multiplying the first fraction by the reciprocal of the second fraction. The first step to dividing fractions is to find the reciprocal (reverse the numerator and denominator) of the second fraction. Next, multiply the two numerators. Then, multiply the two denominators. Finally, simplify the fractions if needed. Created by Sal Khan and Monterey Institute for Technology and Education.

Video transcript

Divide and write the answer as a mixed number. And we have 3/5 divided by 1/2. Now, whenever you're dividing any fractions, you just have to remember that dividing by a fraction is the same thing as multiplying by its reciprocal. So this thing right here is the same thing as 3/5 times-- so this is our 3/5 right here, and instead of a division sign, you want a multiplication sign, and instead of a 1/2, you want to take the reciprocal of 1/2, which would be 2/1-- so times 2/1. So dividing by 1/2 is the exact same thing as multiplying by 2/1. And we just do this as a straightforward multiplication problem now. 3 times 2 is 6, so our new numerator is 6. 5 times 1 is 5. So 3/5 divided by 1/2 as an improper fraction is 6/5. Now, they want us to write it as at mixed number. So we divide the 5 into the 6, figure out how many times it goes. That'll be the whole number part of the mixed number. And then whatever's left over will be the remaining numerator over 5. So what we'll do is take 5 into 6. 5 goes into 6 one time. 1 times 5 is 5. Subtract. You have a remainder of 1. So 6/5 is equal to one whole, or 5/5, and 1/5. This 1 comes from whatever is left over. And now we're done! 3/5 divided by 1/2 is 1 and 1/5. Now, the one thing that's not obvious is why did this work? Why is dividing by 1/2 the same thing as multiplying essentially by 2. 2/1 is the same thing as 2. And to do that, I'll do a little side-- fairly simple-- example, but hopefully, it gets the point across. Let me take four objects. So we have four objects: one, two, three, four. So I have four objects, and if I were to divide into groups of two, so I want to divide it into groups of two. So that is one group of two and then that is another group of two, how many groups do I have? Well, 4 divided by 2, I have two groups of two, so that is equal to 2. Now, what if I took those same four objects: one, two, three, four. So I'm taking those same four objects. Instead of dividing them into groups of two, I want to divide them into groups of 1/2, which means each group will have half of an object in it. So let's say that would be one group right there. That is a second group. That is a third group. I think you see each group has half of a circle in it. That is the fourth. That's the fifth. That's the sixth. That's the seventh, and then that's the eighth. You have eight groups of 1/2, so this is equal to 8. And notice, now each of the objects became two groups. So you could say how many groups do you have? Well, you have four objects and each of them became two groups. I'm looking for a different color. Each of them became two groups, and so you also have eight. So dividing by 1/2 is the same thing as multiplying by 2. And you could think about it with other numbers, but hopefully, that gives you a little bit of an intuition.