A simple ratio problem

Problem: If a:b = 1:3 and b:c = 3:4, find a:c.

Two ratios are given, third is to be found. This is very very simple. The picture shows the two given ratios as blocks.

We can see that a is one block and c is four blocks, so the ratio a:c is 1:4.

You don't need an image for that, of course, since the original ratios are so easy. If a:b=1:3 and b:c=3:4, b being the same in both cases, we can write the ratio a:b:c as 1:3:4 right off.

But what if the numbers weren't so friendly? What if it said this way:

If a:b = 1:3 and b:c = 5:7, find a:c.

This is solvable in various ways. I'll use equivalent ratios, in other words change the given ratios to equivalent ratios until we find ones where the b's are the same.

In the first ratio, 1:3, b is 3. In the other ratio, 5:7, it is 5. We can make those to be 15 by changing the ratios to equivalent ratios - which is done in an identical manner as changing fractions to equivalent fractions.

1:3 = 5:15 and 5:7 = 15:21.

Now the ratio of a:b:c is 5:15:21, so the asked ratio a:c is 5:21.
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