Operations on Rational Numbers
Operations on rational numbers are carried out in the same way as the arithmetic operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division on integers and fractions. Arithmetic operations on rational numbers with the same denominators are easy to calculate but in the case of rational numbers with different denominators, we have to operate after making the denominators the same. Rational numbers are expressed in the form of fractions, but we do not call them fractions as fractions include only positive numbers, while rational numbers include both positive and negative numbers. Fractions are a part of rational numbers, while rational numbers are a broad category that includes other types of numbers.
In this lesson, we will explore operations on rational numbers by learning about addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of rational numbers along with their properties.
What are Operations on Rational Numbers?
Operations on rational numbers refer to the mathematical operations carrying out on two or more rational numbers. A rational number is a number that is of the form p/q, where: p and q are integers, q ≠ 0. Some examples of rational numbers are: 1/2, −3/4, 0.3 (or) 3/10, −0.7 (or) −7/10, etc.
We know about fractions and how different operators can be used on different fractions. All the rules and principles that apply to fractions can also be applied to rational numbers. The one thing that we need to remember is that rational numbers also include negatives. So, while 1/5 is a rational number, it is true that −1/5 is also a rational number. There are four basic arithmetic operations with rational numbers: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Let's learn about each in detail.
Addition of Rational Numbers
Adding rational numbers can be done in the same way as adding fractions. There are two cases related to the addition of rational numbers.
 Adding rational numbers with like denominators
 Adding rational numbers with different denominators
To add two or more rational numbers with like denominators, we simply add all the numerators and write the common denominator. For example, add 1/8 and 3/8. Let us understand this with the help of a number line.
 On the number line, we start from 1/8.
 We will take 3 jumps toward the right as we are adding 3/8 to it. As a result, we reach point 4/8. 1/8 + 3/8 = (1 + 3)/8 = 4/8 =1/2
 Thus, 1/8 + 3/8 = 1/2.
When rational numbers have different denominators, the first step is to make their denominators equivalent using the LCM of the denominators. Let's consider an example. Let us add the numbers −1/3 and 3/5
 Step 1: The denominators are different in the given numbers. Let's find the LCM of 3 and 5 to find the common denominator. LCM of 3 and 5 =15
 Step 2: Find the equivalent rational number with the common denominator. To do this, multiply −1/3 with 5 and 3/5 with 3 −1/3 × 5/5 and − 5/15 = 3/5 × 3/3 = 9/15.
 Step 3: Now the denominators are the same; simply add the numerators and then copy the common denominator. Always reduce your final answer to its lowest term. −1/3+3/5=(−1/3×5/5)+(3/5×3/3) =−5/5+9/15 =4/15
Subtraction of Rational Numbers
The process of subtraction of rational numbers is the same as that of addition. While subtracting two rational numbers on a number line, we move toward the left. Let us understand this method using an example. Subtract 1/2x−1/3x
 Step 1: Find the LCM of the denominators. LCM (2, 3) = 6.
 Step 2: Convert the numbers into their equivalents with 6 as the common denominator. 1/2x × 3/3 = 3/6x = 1/3x × 2/2 = 2/6x
 Step 3: Subtract the numbers you obtained in step 2.
Multiplication of Rational Numbers
Multiplication of rational numbers is similar to how we multiply fractions. To multiply any two rational numbers, we have to follow three simple steps. Let's multiply the following rational numbers: −2/3×(−4/5). The steps to find the solution are:
 Step 1: Multiply the numerators. (−2)×(−4)=8
 Step 2: Multiply the denominators. (3)×(5)=15
 Step 3: Reduce the resulting number to its lowest term. Since it's already in its lowest term, we can leave it as is. (−23)×(−45) = (−2)×(−4)/ (3)×(5) = 8/15
Division of Rational Numbers
We have learned in the whole number division that the dividend is divided by the divisor. Dividend÷Divisor=Dividend/Divisor. While dividing any two numbers, we have to see how many parts of the divisor are there in the dividend. This is the same for the division of rational numbers as well. Let us take an example to understand it in a better way. The steps to be followed to divide two rational numbers are given below:
 Step 1: Take the reciprocal of the divisor (the second rational number). 2x/9 = 9/2x
 Step 2: Multiply it to the dividend. −4x/3 × 9/2x
 Step 3: The product of these two numbers will be the solution. (−4x × 9) / (3 × 2x) = −6
Properties of Operations on Rational Numbers
Some of the properties that apply to the operations on rational numbers are listed below:
Statement  Equation  
Closure Property 
This property states that when any two rational numbers are added, subtracted, multiplied or divided, the result is also a rational number. 
\(\dfrac{x}{y} \pm \dfrac{m}{n}=\dfrac{xn\pm ym}{yn}\), which is a rational number. \(\dfrac{x}{y} \times \dfrac{m}{n}=\dfrac{xm}{yn}\) \(\dfrac{x}{y} \div \dfrac{m}{n}=\dfrac{xn}{ym}\) 
Associative Property 
For adding or multiplying three rational numbers, they can be rearranged internally without any effect on the final answer. This property does not hold true for subtraction and division of rational numbers. 
\(\dfrac{x}{y}+(\dfrac{m}{n}+\dfrac{p}{q})\)=\((\dfrac{x}{y}+\dfrac{m}{n})+\dfrac{p}{q}\) \(\dfrac{x}{y} \times (\dfrac{m}{n} \times \dfrac{p}{q})\)=\((\dfrac{x}{y}\times \dfrac{m}{n}) \times \dfrac{p}{q}\) 
Commutative Property 
This property states that two rational numbers can be added or multiplied irrespective of their order. This property does not hold true for subtraction and division of rational numbers. 
\(\dfrac{x}{y}+\dfrac{m}{n}=\dfrac{m}{n}+\dfrac{x}{y}\) \(\dfrac{x}{y} \times \dfrac{m}{n}=\dfrac{m}{n} \times \dfrac{x}{y}\) 
Additive/Multiplicative Identity 
0 is the additive identity of any rational number. When we add 0 to any rational number, the resultant is the number itself. 1 is the multiplicative inverse of any rational number. When we multiply 1 to any rational number, the resultant is the number itself. 
\(\dfrac{x}{y}+0=\dfrac{x}{y}\) \(\dfrac{x}{y} \times 1=\dfrac{x}{y}\) 
Additive/Multiplicative Inverse 
For any rational number \(\dfrac{x}{y}\), there exists \(\dfrac{x}{y}\) such that the addition of both the numbers gives 0. \(\dfrac{x}{y}\) is the additive inverse of \(\dfrac{x}{y}\). Similarly, for any rational number \(\dfrac{x}{y}\), there exists \(\dfrac{y}{x}\) such that the product of both the numbers is equal to 1. \(\dfrac{y}{x}\) is the multiplicative inverse of \(\dfrac{x}{y}\). 
\(\dfrac{x}{y}+(\dfrac{x}{y})=0\) \(\dfrac{x}{y} \times \dfrac{y}{x}=1\) 
Distributive Property  Two rational numbers combined with the addition or subtraction operator can be multiplied to a third rational number separately by putting the addition or subtraction sign in between. 
If there are \(3\) rational numbers, \(\dfrac{p}{q}\), \(\dfrac{m}{n}\) and \(\dfrac{a}{b}\), then, \(\dfrac{p}{q} \times (\dfrac{m}{n}\pm \dfrac{a}{b})\)=\((\dfrac{p}{q} \times \dfrac{m}{n})\pm(\dfrac{p}{q} \times \dfrac{a}{b})\) 
Related Articles
Check out a few more interesting articles related to the operations of rational numbers.
 Decimal Representation of Irrational Numbers
 Irrational Numbers
 Rationalize the Denominator
 Is pi a rational or Irrational Number
Important Notes
 Identity property does not hold true for subtraction and division of rational numbers.
 Closure property holds true for all four operations of rational numbers.
 Commutative property and associative property holds true for the addition and multiplication of rational numbers.
 Inverse property does not hold true for subtraction and division of rational numbers.x/y−(−x/y)≠0, x/y:y/x≠1
Examples of Operations of Rational Numbers

Example 1: Using the properties of rational numbers, determine the difference between −5/7 and 3/7.
Solution:
The given rational numbers have a common denominator. Thus, we will subtract the numerators and retain the same denominator.
= −5/7−3/7
= (−5−3)/7 = −8/7Therefore, the difference is −8/7.

Example 2: Saira uses 3/5 of the flour if she has to bake a full cake. How much flour will she use to bake 1/6 portion of the cake?
Solution:
Total flour to bake a full cake = 3/5
Using operations on rational numbers,
Amount of flour used to bake1/6 portion of the cake = 3/5×1/6=(3×1)/(5×6)=3/30=1/10
Therefore, Saira would have to use 1/10 of the flour.
FAQs on Operations of Rational Numbers
What Are the Effects of Different Operations on Rational and Irrational Numbers?
 The resultant of the addition of a rational number and an irrational number is an irrational number only as it doesn't affect the nonrecurring and nonterminating nature of the irrationals.
 The sum of two rational numbers is a rational number.
 The sum of a rational number and an irrational number is irrational.
 The sum of two irrational numbers is an irrational number.
 The product of two rational numbers is a rational number.
 The product of a rational number and an irrational number is an irrational number.
 The product of two irrational numbers is an irrational number.
How Do You Perform Operations on Rational Numbers?
We perform the operations on rational numbers as follows:
 Addition and subtraction of rational numbers: In case, the denominators are the same, just add or subtract directly. In case, the denominators are different, take LCM to make the denominators the same and then solve.
 Multiplication of rational numbers: Multiply the numerators and multiply the denominators. Reduce the fraction so obtained in its lowest form.
 Division of Rational Numbers: Multiply the reciprocal of the divisor with the dividend.
What Are the Properties of Addition of Rational Numbers?
Properties of addition of rational numbers are described below:
 Addition of two rational numbers is also a rational number. (closure property)
 Three rational numbers can be added in any order. (Associative property)
 Two rational numbers can be rearranged internally without affecting the addition of numbers. (Commutative property)
 0 is the additive identity of any rational number.
 Additive inverse of a rational number in the form of p/q is −pq.
Does the Identity Property Hold True for the Subtraction of Rational Numbers?
Identity property partially holds true in the case of subtraction of rational numbers, as x/y − 0 = x/y, but 0 − x/y ≠ x/y.
What Is the Rule for Subtracting Rational Numbers?
To subtract any two rational numbers
 Step 1: Check if the denominators are the same.
 Step 2: Make the denominators the same by taking the LCM of the denominators.
 Step 3: Subtract the given numbers by subtracting their numerators, leaving the denominator the same.
What Is the Difference Between Operations on Fractions and Operations on Rational Numbers?
In operations on rational numbers, we need to use the rules of operations on integers as well as operations on fractions, because rational numbers include negative numbers also. For positive rational numbers, the process of applying operations is the same as that of fractions.
Does the Inverse Property Hold True for the Division of Rational Numbers?
No, the inverse property does not hold true for the division of rational numbers, that's why we call it multiplicative inverse and not division inverse. Because if we divide x/y by y/x, we won't get 1 as the answer. Let's check. x/y ÷ y/x = x/y × x/y = x^{2}/y^{2}≠16.
How To Add Two Negative Rational Numbers?
Let us take an example to understand how to add two negative rational numbers. Add: −1/2+(−3/4)
 Whenever there is a positive sign outside the bracket, we consider the sign of individual terms inside the bracket. So here, we can write it as −1/2 − 3/4.
 Now take the LCM of the denominators to make these terms like. LCM (2,4)=4
 Solve the numerators and write the final answer. −2/4 − 3/4 = −5/4
This is how we add two negative rational numbers.
How To Subtract Two Negative Rational Numbers?
Let us take an example to understand how to subtract two negative rational numbers. Subtract −3/7−(−4/3)
 Whenever there is a negative sign outside the bracket, we change the sign of individual terms inside the bracket. So here, we write −4/3 as +4/3.
 Now take the LCM of the denominators to make these terms like. LCM(7,3)=21
 −12/21 + 28/21. Solve the numerators and write the final answer. −12/21 + 28/21 = 16/21
This is how we subtract two negative rational numbers.
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