A common multiple is a multiple shared by a given set of quantities, where a multiple is the product of a quantity and an integer. For example, the product of 2 and 6 is 12. The integer 12 can also be formed as the product of 3 and 4. Thus, 12 is a common multiple of both 2 and 3. A few other common multiples of 2 and 3 are 24, 108, and 1026.
Being able to find common multiples is important for working with fractions. In order to add or subtract fractions, the denominator of the fractions need to be the same. If they aren't the same, it is necessary to convert the fractions to equivalent fractions. This involves finding a common multiple for all the denominators, then multiplying each respective fraction by the appropriate constant in order to retain the value of the fraction.
A common multiple of 2, 3, and 4, is 12. In order to solve the problem, the fractions above need to be converted to equivalent fractions with denominators of 12:
In the above example, 12 is the least common multiple. When using the least common multiple to add or subtract a given set of fractions, the result will already be in simplest form. If instead of using 12, the example above used 24, 36, 48, or some other multiple, the result would need to be simplified.