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In the discussion of decimal fractions, it was shown that for convenience in writing fractions whose denominators are 10 or some power of 10, the decimal point could be employed and the denominators could be dropped. Thus, this special group of fractions could be written in a much simpler way. As early as the 15th century, businessmen made use of certain decimal fractions so much that they gave them the special designation PERCENT.


The word "percent" is derived from Latin. It was originally "per centum," which means ‘by the hundred." Thus the statement is often made that "percent means hundredths. "

Percentage deals with the group of decimal fractions whose denominators are 100-that is, fractions of two decimal places. Since hundredths were used so frequently, the decimal point was dropped and the symbol % was placed after the number and read "percent" (per 100). Thus, 0.15 and 15% represent the same value, 15/100. The first is read "15 hundredths," and the second is read "15 percent." Both mean 15 parts out of 100.

Ordinarily, percent is used in discussing relative values. For example, 25 percent may convey an idea of relative value or relationship. To say "25 percent of the crew is ashore" gives an idea of what part of the crew is gone, but it does not tell how many. For example, 25 percent of the crew would represent vastly different numbers if the comparison were made between an LSM and a cruiser. When it is necessary to use a percent in computation, the number is written in its decimal form to avoid confusion. By converting all decimal fractions so that they had the common denominator 100, men found that they could mentally visualize the relative size of the part of the whole that was being considered.


Since percent means hundredths, any decimal may be changed to percent by first expressing it as a fraction with 100 as the denominator, The numerator of the fraction thus formed indicates how many hundredths we have, and therefore it indicates "how many percent" we have. For example, 0.36 is the same as 36/100. Therefore, 0.36 expressed as a percentage would be 36 percent. By the same reasoning, since 0.052 is equal to 5.2/100, 0.052 is the same as 5.2 percent.

In actual practice, the step in which the de- nominator 100 occurs is seldom written down. The expression in terms of hundredths is converted mentally to percent. This results in the following rule: To changes decimal to percent, multiply the decimal by 100 and annex the percent sign (%). Since multiplying by 100 has the effect of moving the decimal point two places to the right, the rule is sometimes stated as follows: To change a decimal to percent, move the decimal point two places to the right and annex the percent sign.

Changing Common Fractions and Whole Numbers To Percent

Common fractions are changed to percent by first expressing them as decimals. For example, the fraction l/4 is equivalent to the decimal 0.25. Thus l/4 is the same as 25 percent. Whole numbers may be considered as special types of decimals (for example, 4 may be written as 4.00) and thus may be expressed in terms of percentage, The meaning of an expression such as 400 percent is vague unless we keep in mind that percentage is a form of comparison. For example, a question which often arises is "How can I have more than 100 percent of something, if 100 percent means all of it?"

This question seems reasonable, if we limit our attention to such quantities as test scores. However, it is also reasonable to use percent- age in comparing a current set of data with a previous set. For example, if the amount of electrical power used by a Navy facility this year is double the amount used last year, then this year‘s power usage is 200 percent of last year‘s usage.

The meaning of a phrase such as "200 percent of last year’s usage" is often misinterpreted. A total amount that is 200 percent of the previous amount is not the same as an increase of 200 percent. The increase in this case is only 100 percent, for a total of 200. If the increase had been 200 percent, then the new usage figure would be 300 percent’ of the previous figure.

Baseball batting averages comprise a special case in which percentage is used with only occasional reference to the word "percent." The percentages in batting averages are expressed in their decimal form, with the figure 1.000 representing 100 percent. Although a batting average of 0.300 is referred to as "batting 300," this is actually erroneous nomenclature from the strictly mathematical standpoint. The correct statement, mathematically, would be "batting point three zero zero" or "batting 30 percent."

Practice problems. Change each of the following numbers to percent:

1. 0.0065
2. 1.25 
3. 0.363 
4. 3/4 
5. 7
6. l/2


1. 0.65%  
2. 125% 
3. 36.3%
4. 75% 
5. 700%
6. 5%


Since we do not compute with numbers in the percent form, it is often necessary to change a percent back to the decimal form. The procedure is just opposite to that used in changing decimals to percents: To change a percent to a decimal, drop the percent sign and divide the number by 100. Mechanically, the decimal point is simply shifted two places to the left and the percent sign is dropped. For example, 25 percent is the same as the decimal 0.25. Percents larger than 100 percent are changed to decimals by the same procedure as ordinary percents. For example, 125 percent is equivalent to 1.25.

Practice problems. Change the following percents to decimals:


1. 0.025 
2. 0.0063 
3. 1.25 5. 
4. 0.25 
5.75% = 0.0575
6. 9.50% = 0.095

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