Mnemonic Weekly Tip: # 36         June 1, 2003
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The Problem
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Many children and adults are confused by fractions. One aspect of that confusion comes from an either/or problem: the numerator or the denominator. Either the number on the top of the line is the numerator or it is the denominator or the number on the bottom is the denominator or it is the numerator. For most people this it not confusing, but for the person who has a right/left problem, this confusion can persist for a lifetime.

The Mnemonic: 
Here are two different mnemonic clues to assist the person when distinguishing between the numerator and denominator.

                     1. The denominator begins with the letter d and the word down begins with the letter d. So when in doubt think d for down and
                     2. Think family. The family name is like the denominator; it is usually written after the personís first name. The denominator tells you which family the fraction belongs to and the numerator tells you which family member.
                Tom           1             Mary                  John        5           Sue            7
                Smith         8             Smith       8         Smith       8           Smith          8                           
     A number of teachers and students have asked to have the Mnemonic Clue of the Week sent to them each week. If you would like to receive this service, send your e-mail address to  
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Richard Cooper