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Here is my Python implementation of a simple fractions class:

class frac:
    def __init__(self, a,b):
        self.a = a
        self.b = b

    def __add__(self, x):
        return frac(self.a*x.b + self.b*x.a, self.b*x.b)    

    def __mul__(self, x):
        return frac(self.a*x.a, self.b*x.b)   

    def __sub__(self, x):
        return frac(self.a*x.b - self.b*x.a, self.b*x.b) 

    def __div__(self, x):
        return frac(self.a*x.b, self.b*x.a) 

    def __repr__(self):
        return "%s/%s"%(self.a,self.b)

It does addition OK:

x = frac(1,3)
y = frac(1,2)
print x+ y

>> 5/6

However, it can miss the mark:

x = frac(1,3)
y = frac(2,3)
print x+ y

>> 9/9

It seems if I run this library enough, the numerators and denominators will get very large. When should I start simplifying and where should I put that code?

There seems to be a fractions class already in Python, it this was instructive to put together.

My original goal was to allow for square roots of integers as well, but I will ask this in a separate question.

share|improve this question
You might consider accepcting the most helpful answer by clicking the check mark below the voting buttons. – ojdo Apr 29 '14 at 13:54
up vote 11 down vote accepted

I would probably put it right in your __init__ method, which simplifies it every time a fraction is created (which includes after any operation).

I disagree with Jaime's answer that you should do the simplification as part of the operation, as you'll have to copy/paste that code for every new operation.

I’d write something like:

def gcd(x, y):
    while y:
        x, y = y, x % y
    return x

class Fraction(object):
    def __init__(self, numer, denom):
        cancel_factor = gcd(numer, denom)
        self.numer = numer / cancel_factor
        self.denom = denom / cancel_factor

A few other comments:

  • Per PEP 8 on class names, I'm using Fraction instead of frac.

    Also from PEP 8, I would put spaces around your multiplication operators.

  • New style classes should inherit from object (as I've done above).

  • I think numer and denom are better attribute names than a and b.

  • The convention is to use other as the variable name in a method that takes two inputs, rather than x. For example:

    def __add__(self, other):
        new_numer = self.numer * other.denom + self.denom * other.numer
        new_denom = self.denom * other.denom
        return Fraction(new_numer, new_denom)
  • I disagree with your use of __repr__. As a rule of thumb, __repr__ should be something you can eval() to get back to that object; __str__ is the human-readable object. See difference between __str__ and __repr__ for more.

    Here's what I'd write:

    def __repr__(self):
        return "Fraction(%s, %s)" % (self.numer, self.denom)
    def __str__(self):
        return "%s / %s" % (self.numer, self.denom)
share|improve this answer
That's indeed a much better structuring of the code, +1. – Jaime Apr 23 '14 at 20:50

If you want to produce correct results, you should simplify after each operation. Euclid's algorithm is very fast in finding the GCD, and very simple to code. If you have a function like:

def gcd(a, b):
    while b:
        a, b = b, a % b
    return a

Then you could rewrite, e.g. you __add__ method as:

def __add__(self, other):
    num = self.a * other.b + self.b * other.a
    den = self.b * other.b
    gcf = gcd(num, den)

    return frac(num // gcf, den // gcf)
share|improve this answer
This simplification is needed in each function (and maybe even outside) so it should be a function of its own. – Nobody Apr 23 '14 at 18:31
Euclid's algorithm may be fast compared with a naive approach, but if code reduces after every addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division, it will spend more time doing the reductions than it spends doing everything else combined. – supercat Apr 23 '14 at 21:00
If you want correctness, you have to keep fractions in lowest terms. That the implementation in the standard Python library does exactly the same as @alexwlchan proposes, see here, is a good indicator that this is the proper way of going about it. – Jaime Apr 23 '14 at 23:12

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