Dear Lois: I can't seem to figure out canceling. My teacher must have showed me twenty times. She keeps scratching out numbers here and writing numbers there. When she gets through, the chalkboard looks like a chicken yard. I can't make any sense out of it. Sign me .............No Clue

Dear Clue: Canceling is just about the same as putting a fraction in lowest terms. Hopefully, you have learned to do that. Look at the multiplication problem to the right. We draw a ring around the numbers we want to cancel--the numerator of one fraction and the denominator of the other.

On a piece of scratch paper we write the two numbers as a fraction. Then we reduce the fraction to lowest terms.

Now we go back to the multiplication problem. We scratch out the 3 and write 1 above it; we scratch out the 12 and write 4 below it.

Finally, we multiply the numerators across the top and the denominators across the bottom.

Remember, always check your answer for lowest terms! Easy, is it not?

Dear Ms. Terms: Where is the decimal in 4,035,628? My teacher says every number has a decimal, but I sure don't see one, do you? Maybe you need trifocals like my teacher wears to see it? .......... No Way

Dear No Way: Look at the diagram below. The decimal is used to separate the whole number part from the fraction part of the number. In the case of the whole number 4,035,628 the decimal would go just to the right of the 8 in the ones place. But since there is no fraction part to the number, we generally don't show the decimal. I guess you could say it is invisible. (P.S. Trifocals won't help; but imagination might.)

Dear Lois Terms: I read that story you wrote about factors and multiples and I thought it was a really stupid story and I think you should forget the stupid stories.- ...... Joe S.

Dear Joe S: Yes, I know it's a stupid story. But stupid stories sometimes help people remember math. I'll bet from now on you'll remember the difference between a multiple and a factor! Remind me sometime to tell you the story about "The Lady with the Big Hat."

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"Ask Lois Terms" © 1997 Lindsay-Livingston