owlswipe owlswipe - 17 days ago 7x
Swift Question

Decimal to Fraction conversion in Swift

I am building a calculator and want it to automatically convert every decimal into a fraction. So if the user calculates an expression for which the answer is "0.333333...", it would return "1/3". For "0.25" it would return "1/4". Using GCD, as found here (Decimal to fraction conversion), I have figured out how to convert any rational, terminating decimal into a decimal, but this does not work on any decimal that repeats (like .333333).

Every other function for this on stack overflow is in Objective-C. But I need a function in my swift app! So a translated version of this (http://stackoverflow.com/a/13430237/5700898) would be nice!

Any ideas or solutions on how to convert a rational or repeating/irrational decimal to a fraction (i.e. convert "0.1764705882..." to 3/17) would be great!


If you want to display the results of calculations as rational numbers then the only 100% correct solution is to use rational arithmetic throughout all calculations, i.e. all intermediate values are stored as a pair of integers (numerator, denominator), and all additions, multiplications, divisions, etc are done using the rules for rational numbers.

As soon as a result is assigned to a binary floating point number such as Double, information is lost. For example,

let x : Double = 7/10

stores in x an approximation of 0.7, because that number cannot be represented exactly as a Double. From

print(String(format:"%a", x)) // 0x1.6666666666666p-1

one can see that x holds the value

0x16666666666666 * 2^(-53) = 6305039478318694 / 9007199254740992
                           ≈ 0.69999999999999995559107901499373838305

So a correct representation of x as a rational number would be 6305039478318694 / 9007199254740992, but that is of course not what you expect. What you expect is 7/10, but there is another problem:

let x : Double = 69999999999999996/100000000000000000

assigns exactly the same value to x, it is indistinguishable from 0.7 within the precision of a Double.

So should x be displayed as 7/10 or as 69999999999999996/100000000000000000 ?

As said above, using rational arithmetic would be the perfect solution. If that is not viable, then you can convert the Double back to a rational number with a given precision. (The following is taken from Algorithm for LCM of doubles in Swift.)

Continued Fractions are an efficient method to create a (finite or infinite) sequence of fractions hn/kn that are arbitrary good approximations to a given real number x, and here is a possible implementation in Swift:

typealias Rational = (num : Int, den : Int)

func rationalApproximationOf(x0 : Double, withPrecision eps : Double = 1.0E-6) -> Rational {
    var x = x0
    var a = floor(x)
    var (h1, k1, h, k) = (1, 0, Int(a), 1)

    while x - a > eps * Double(k) * Double(k) {
        x = 1.0/(x - a)
        a = floor(x)
        (h1, k1, h, k) = (h, k, h1 + Int(a) * h, k1 + Int(a) * k)
    return (h, k)


rationalApproximationOf(0.333333) // (1, 3)
rationalApproximationOf(0.25)     // (1, 4)
rationalApproximationOf(0.1764705882) // (3, 17)

The default precision is 1.0E-6, but you can adjust that to your needs:

rationalApproximationOf(0.142857) // (1, 7)
rationalApproximationOf(0.142857, withPrecision: 1.0E-10) // (142857, 1000000)

rationalApproximationOf(M_PI) // (355, 113)
rationalApproximationOf(M_PI, withPrecision: 1.0E-7) // (103993, 33102)
rationalApproximationOf(M_PI, withPrecision: 1.0E-10) // (312689, 99532)

For Swift 3 replace round(x) by x.rounded(.down).