In this explainer, we will learn how to identify rational numbers and find the position of a rational number on a number line.

Rational numbers are often called fractions. However, they are a specific type of fraction where both the numerator and denominator must be integers and the denominator cannot be equal to zero.

One way of application of rational numbers is to consider proportions of a whole. For example, if we split a pizza into 8 equal slices, then each slice represents of the whole pizza.

Similarly, we can think about these numbers by considering number lines. We can ask which number lies halfway between 0 and 1. Since double this number must be 1, we can see that this is .

We can define the set of all rational numbers more formally as follows.

### Definition: The Set of Rational Numbers

The set of rational numbers, written , is the set of all quotients of integers. Therefore, contains all elements of the form where and are integers and is nonzero. In set builder notation, we have

Using this definition, we can see some interesting properties of the set of rational numbers. First, we can note that all integers are rational numbers, since if , then , so . This means that the set of integers is a subset of the set of rational numbers. We can then recall that the set of natural numbers is a subset of the integers, giving us .

Although it is beyond the scope of this explainer to prove this result, some numbers such as or are not rational and are called irrational. It is worth noting that a number cannot be rational and irrational at the same time.

We can also use this definition to find some examples of rational numbers. For example, 1 and 2 are integers, so . Similarly, and are rational numbers. One way of conceptualizing rational numbers like these is to consider them as multiples of simpler fractions. For example, we can think about as 5 lots of .

This is not the only way of representing rational numbers; we have also seen that , so we can also represent rational numbers as decimals. It is worth noting that any decimal expansion with a finite number of digits or a repeating expansion is rational. We can represent numbers like this using a line over the repeating digits, so and . Similarly, we can represent fractions as mixed numbers; for example, , which is also a rational number.

We can represent this information in the following Venn diagram.

In our first example, we will determine if a given number is a rational number.

### Example 1: Determining the Rationality of a Number

Is a rational number?

### Answer

We begin by recalling that the set of rational numbers, written , is the set of all quotients of integers. Therefore, .

Thus, to determine if is rational, we need to check if we can write this number in the form for integers and with . We can do this by recalling that 12 can be written as . Hence,

Thus, can be written as a quotient of integers and so the answer is yes, it is a rational number.

In our next example, we will consider if all rational numbers are integers.

### Example 2: Comparing Integers and Rational Numbers

Is every rational number an integer?

### Answer

We begin by recalling that the set of rational numbers, written , is the set of all quotients of integers. Therefore, .

Therefore, numbers such as are rational numbers. We know that is between 0 and 1 and not equal to either integer, so . Hence, is a rational number that is not an integer, and so the answer is no, not all rational numbers are integers.

In our next example, we will check if a given integer is a rational number.

### Example 3: Determining If a Number Belongs or Does Not Belong in the Set of Rational Numbers

Which of the following is true?

### Answer

We begin by recalling that the set of rational numbers is the set of all quotients of integers. In particular, we can note that , so it is a quotient of integer values.

It is worth noting that any is a rational number, since . By setting , we have that .

Hence, , which is option A.

Thus far, we have focused on the formal definition of a rational number. However, there is a lot of use in considering the visualization of rational numbers. In particular, we can represent any rational number on a number line by using distances.

For example, consider the following number line with markers representing the integers.

Letβs say we wanted to find the point on the number line representing . We could start by noting that this number is negative, so it lies on the negative side of the number line, and that 3 goes into 5 once with a remainder of 2, so must lie between and . However, we want the exact point that represents this number, and to do this, we note that the denominator is 3 and so we will need to split the number line into increments of . In particular, will be 5 increments of on the negative side, as shown.

We note that and that and that each increment of will increase or decrease this value by . This allows us to see that the marked points between and will represent and respectively.

Using this same method, we can represent any rational number on a number line; we just need to determine the integers it lies between and then split the line into equal increments based on the denominator of the fraction.

This also allows us to note that the sign of is determined by the signs of and . In general, if and have the same sign, then is positive, if and have different signs, then is negative, and if , then . Also, when is negative, the negative sign is written at the front of the fraction, as it does not matter if this factor of is in the numerator or denominator.

Letβs now see an example of determining the point that represents a given rational number.

### Example 4: Identifying the Positions of Rational Numbers on a Number Line

Which of the numbers , and is ?

### Answer

To determine the position of on the number line, we note that since the denominator of the fraction is 10, we want to divide the number line into increments of . If we look at the number line given, we can see that there are 5 increments for each integer pair. So, we will need to split each of these in half to make increments of . We also note that is positive, so we want the point 4 increments of in the positive direction, as shown.

We can then see that this is marked on the number line.

In our next example, we will use the idea of finding points representing rational numbers on a number line to determine the rational number that lies between two given rational numbers.

### Example 5: Solving Problems Involving Rational Numbers

Find the rational number lying halfway between and .

### Answer

Since we are asked to find the rational number lying halfway between and , we should start by representing these numbers on a number line. To do this, we note that will be 2 increments of in the negative direction and that will be 4 increments of in the positive direction. We can also note that , so we can find the increments of by splitting the increments of into 5 equal sections. This gives us the following.

We want the number that lies halfway between and . This means it must lie an equal number of increments from both of these numbers. Since there are 14 increments between the numbers, we want the number that is 7 increments either side of these end points. We can see on the number line that this is the following point.

Since this point is 3 increments of to the left of 0, we can write this number as .

In our final example, we will determine which of four given expressions is rational given the values of the variables.

### Example 6: Identifying the Rational Expression from a List of Given Expressions

Which of the following expressions is rational given and ?

### Answer

We begin by recalling that the set of rational numbers, written , is the set of all quotients of integers. Therefore, .

We can determine which of these expressions is rational by substituting the values of and into each expression separately.

In expression A, we get

Evaluating the denominator, we get

Since we cannot divide by 0, this is not a rational number.

We have a similar story in expressions B and D. For expression B, we have and for expression D, we have

Thus, neither of these represents rational numbers.

Finally, in expression C, we have which is the quotient of two integer values where the denominator is nonzero.

Hence, only option C is a rational number.

Letβs finish by recapping some of the important points from this explainer.

### Key Points

- The set of rational numbers, written , is the set of all quotients of integers.
- Every integer is a rational number and , but not all rational numbers are integers.
- We can represent the rational number on a number line by splitting the number line into increments of and choosing the point that is increments from 0, where the sign of tells us the direction.
- The sign of is determined by the signs of and . In general, if and have the same sign, then is positive, if and have different signs, then is negative, and if , then .