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What Is A Unit Fraction? Explained For Primary Parents

In this post we will be explaining what a unit fraction is, what they mean, and providing you with some questions you can use to test your KS2 child’s skills when it comes to unit fractions.

This blog is part of our series of blogs designed for parents supporting home learning and looking for home learning resources during the Covid-19 epidemic.

What is a unit fraction?

A unit fraction is any fraction with 1 as its numerator (top number), and a whole number for the denominator (bottom number). 

Examples of unit fractions include:

Examples of unit fractions

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When will my child learn about unit fractions?

Although the terminology of ‘unit fraction’ is not yet introduced, Year 1 pupils should: 

  • recognise, find and name a half as one of two equal parts of an object, shape or quantity; 
  • recognise, find and name a quarter as one of four equal parts of an object, shape or quantity.
Unit fractions for year 1 pupils

In Year 2, pupils use fractions as ‘fractions of’ discrete (whole numbers) and continuous (any numerical value e.g. 3.6) quantities by solving problems using shapes, objects and quantities. 

They connect unit fractions to:

  • equal sharing and grouping; 
  • to numbers when they can be calculated;
  • and to measures, finding fractions of lengths, quantities, sets of objects or shapes. 

They also meet 3/4 as the first example of a non-unit fraction.

Year 3 pupils should: 

  • recognise, find and write fractions of a discrete set of objects: unit fractions and non-unit fractions with small denominators; 
  • recognise and use fractions as numbers: unit fractions and non-unit fractions with small denominators; 
  • compare and order unit fractions, and fractions with the same denominators;
  • begin to understand unit and non-unit fractions as numbers on the number line, and deduce relations between them, such as size and equivalence; 
  • understand the relation between unit fractions as operators (fractions of), and division by integers; 
  • continue to recognise fractions in the context of parts of a whole, numbers, measurements, a shape, and unit fractions as a division of a quantity.
Unit and non unit fractions on a number line

Unit fractions are then not mentioned in the curriculum until Year 6, where pupils use their understanding of the relationship between unit fractions and division to work backwards by multiplying a quantity that represents a unit fraction to find the whole quantity (for example, if 1/4 of a length is 36cm, then the whole length is 36 × 4 = 144cm).

Wondering about how to explain other key maths vocabulary to your children? Check out our Primary Maths Dictionary, or try these other terms related to unit fractions:

Unit fraction practice questions for primary school children

1) Write these numbers in order, starting with the smallest: 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/5

2) Circle the biggest unit fraction: 1/6, 1/4, 1/3, 1/5

3) Shade in 1/5 of this shape (you can recreate this on a piece of paper): 

Unit fraction question


4) Calculate 1/7 of 21.

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Ellie Williams
Ellie Williams
Third Space Learning
Content Team
With a love for all things KS2 maths, Ellie is a part of the content team that helps all of the Third Space Learning blogs and resources reach teachers!
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