Why are Non-terminating, Repeating Decimals Rational

Last night, I received a Facebook message from a Grade 8 student asking why non-terminating repeating decimals are rational. I am posting the answer here for reference.

Rational numbers is closed under addition. That is, if we add two rational numbers, we are guaranteed that the sum is also a rational number. The proof of this is quite easy, so I leave it as an exercise for advanced high school students.

Before discussing non-terminating decimals, let me also note that terminating decimals are rational. I think this is quite obvious because terminating decimals can be converted to fractions (and fractions are rational). For example, 0.842 can be expressed as


Further, terminating decimals can be expressed as sum of fractions. For example, 0.842 can be expressed as

\frac{8}{10} + \frac{4}{100} + \frac{2}{1000}.

Since rational numbers is closed under addition, the sum of any number of fractions is also a fraction. This shows that all terminating decimals are fractions.  » Read more

Counting the Real Numbers

If we are in a room full of ballroom dancers where each male dancer has a female dancer partner, and no one is left without a partner, we can say that there are as many male as female dancers in the room even without counting. In mathematics, we say that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the set of male dancers and the set of female dancers.

Pairing Infinite Sets

In the A Glimpse at Infinite Sets, we have learned that if we can pair two sets in one-to-one correspondence, we can say that the two sets have the same number of elements. The number of elements of a set is its cardinality. Therefore, the cardinality of the binary numbers {1,0} is 2 and the cardinality of the set of the vowel letters in the English alphabet {a, e, i, o, u} is 5.

The pairing of sets can be extended to compare sets with infinite number of elements or infinite sets.  In Figure 1, it is clear that it is possible to pair the set of integers with the set of counting numbers in one-to-one correspondence (can you see why?).  Infinite sets whose elements can be paired with the set of counting numbers in one-to-one correspondence is said to be countably infinite.

Figure 1

As a consequence of the analogy above, we can conclude the cardinality of counting numbers is equal to the cardinality of integers (Can you see why?). » Read more

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