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Remember that fractions are used to count a part of something.
 

square_1redpiece2.gif      1_4th.gif of this square is red. 

Mixed numbers are used when you need to count whole things AND parts of things at the same time.

Check this out:

How much of these squares is red?

red square    red square    red square    square_1redpiece.gif

There are 3 whole squares and 1_4th_small.gif of another square...

We write it like this:

3_n_1_4th.gif

and read it like "three and one fourth."

It's really

3_plus_1_4th.gif

But, we don't put the "+" in... This is why we say the "and."