How To Understand The Breakdown Of Fractions On A Ruler?


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The majority of rulers in the US and those still measuring inches in the UK mark the measurements in steps going down to a sixteenth of an inch. Counting those tiny spaces can be difficult and time consuming. Here are a few hints to make using a ruler marked like this a little easier.

The best way to start is at the beginning. If there is a space between the edge of the ruler and the first longer mark, then this mark denotes zero. This ensures continuing accuracy, especially on wooden rulers where the end may wear away with use. A closer look at the ruler will reveal a set of numbers, usually up to 12, with each number set against a longer line. Each longer line marks an inch. The space between each of these inch-markers is divided into half an inch by a slightly smaller line. Each half inch is then divided again by another, shorter line into quarters of an inch, as well as eight very short lines. Each of these short lines marks one sixteenth of an inch.

The ruler is read by noting the number of inches, the number of half inches, or eight sixteenths; the number of quarter inches, or four sixteenths, and adding any extra single sixteenth. The total number of sixteenths can then be worked out.

This works equally well the other way around. Even numbers of sixteens, such as two, six, ten and 14 sixteenth can be reduced to eights by by dividing the numbers by two. Four, eight or 12 sixteenth may be divided by four to end up with quarters and eight sixteens obviously make half an inch.

It is necessary to be careful when reading sixteenth, as even a minor error can make a huge difference at times.

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