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Dividing fractions by whole numbers: studying

Learn to solve a word problem that involves dividing a unit fraction by a whole number. Created by Sal Khan.

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Video transcript

Tommy is studying for final exams this weekend. He will spend 1/5 of the weekend studying. What fraction of the weekend will he spend studying for each of his 4 subjects if he spends the same amount of time studying for each subject? So the total amount of time he's going to spend studying this weekend is 1/5 of the weekend. And he has to divide that into 4 equal sections. And he's going to spend that much time on each subject. So he's going to divide this by 4. Now, we've already seen that dividing by a number is the same thing as multiplying by its reciprocal. You might say, hey, well, what's the reciprocal of 4? You just have to remind yourself that 4 is the same thing as 4/1. So 1/5 divided by 4/1 is the same thing as 1/5 times 1/4. And you could also view this as 1/4 of 1/5 or 1/5 of 1/4, either way. But here we multiply our numerators to get 1. And then we multiply our denominators, 4 times 5 is 20. So you get 1/20 of the weekend will be spent studying for each subject. Now, let's also try to think about this visually. Let's imagine that this is his entire weekend. And I've divided it into 5 equal sections. And so we already know that the total amount of his weekend spent studying is 1/5. So that's the total amount studying for the weekend is 1/5. Now, he has to divide this into 4 equals section. So let's do that. He's got four subjects, and he's going to spend the same amount of time on each of the 4 subjects. So he's going to divide this into 4 equal sections. So how much time does he spend on one subject? Well, in each subject, that would be this little area that I'm doing in yellow right over here. And what is that? Well, that's 1 over-- how many equal sections are there of that size in the weekend? Well, I've just drawn out the grid. You had 5 rows, and now you have 4 columns. So 5 rows times 4 columns, you have 20 equal sections. So once again, looking at it visually, he's spending 1/20 of his weekend on each of the 4 subjects. And then if you do this for 4 subjects, that means that in this whole weekend, 1/5 will be spent studying. But the question that they're asking, he's spending 1/20 of the weekend on each subject.