The Fractional Bakery

The Fractional Bakery

Imagine you own a bakery and the only thing you sell are loaves of bread. Not only that, but all your loaves are identical, which means they are all the same size and everything else is the same.

So when customers come into your shop they just say how many loaves they want..


One day a customer comes in and explains that they love your bread but your loaves are too big. They ask if you make smaller loaves. You don't. But then you have a clever idea. You take a knife and cut a loaf into 2 equal sized pieces. You sell one piece to the customer and they are happy.

But what did you just sell? It was not a loaf. It was something less. You chopped a loaf into 2 equal pieces and sold one of the pieces. You sold "one out of two", so you could write that as 1/2.

This idea is popular with your customers. Soon you are chopping your loaves into 5 equal pieces and selling customers 1, 2, 3 or 4 of the pieces. That's 1/5, 2/5, 3/5 or 4/5.

Of course, if you sold a customer 5 out of 5 then that's the same as the whole loaf, so 5/5=1.

One day a really fussy customer comes into your bakery and asks for 5/8. You know exactly what to do. You take a loaf, chop it into exactly 8 equal size pieces and then sell the customer 5 of the pieces.

These funny looking things like 1/2 and 5/8 are called fractions. Mathematicians call them rational numbers. That's the fancy mathematical name for them.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott