Understanding Decimals: Working through Decimal Basics

Decimals are an essential part of our everyday lives, whether we’re balancing our budget, measuring ingredients for a recipe, or calculating distances on a map. In this blog, we’ll explore the basics of decimals, including what they are, how they work, and why they’re important.

What are Decimals?

Decimals are a way of expressing parts of a whole. They are numbers that have a value between two whole numbers. For example, between 0 and 1, 0.5 would be a decimal between these two numbers. It is more than 0 but less than 1. You can also represent decimals as mixed fractions. 0.5 would be ½. This can be taken one step further and the mixed fraction can be represented as a percentage. 0.5 or ½ can be changed into a percentage of 50%.

Decimals are a mix of whole numbers and fractions, all bundled up with a dot called a decimal point. The numbers to the left of the decimal point are whole numbers – like 1, 2, 3, and so on, including units, tens, hundreds, and even thousands. But wait, there’s more! On the right side of that dot, you’ve got the fractions– tenths, hundredths, and thousandths. It’s like having a mini-fraction party right there in your number!

Now, why does all this matter? Understanding where those numbers belong is key to solving all sorts of math puzzles. Whether you’re calculating how much pizza each friend gets or figuring out how fast your car is going, mastering the place value of decimals is your secret weapon.

Types of Decimals

There are different types of decimals:

Terminating decimals
Non-terminating decimals
Recurring decimals
Non-recurring decimals

To understand decimals better, let’s break down some key concepts:

Place Value: Each digit in a decimal number has a place value determined by closer the number is to the decimal point. Moving from left to right, the place values are powers of 10: units, tenths, hundredths, thousandths, and so on. Here’s a visual example to make it easier to understand!

Hundreds – Tens – Ones – POINT – Tenths – Hundredths – Thousandths

Let’s take a look at an example: 32.14

3: 3 Tens or 30

2: 2 Ones or 2


1: 1 Tenth or 0.1

4: 1 Hundredth or 0.01

Operations with Decimals: Just like with whole numbers, you can do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with decimals. Remember to align the decimal points when adding or subtracting, and to multiply and divide as if the decimal point isn’t there. Take a look at our other blogs to learn how to multiply and divide decimals!

Decimal fractions: These can compared to a bridge between whole numbers and fractions, offering a precise way to represent parts of a whole using the familiar decimal notation. Picture this: you’ve got your whole numbers on the left side of the decimal point, representing complete units. But on the right side, that’s where the magic happens – each digit after the decimal point represents a fraction of that whole, whether it’s tenths, hundredths, or even tinier fractions like thousandths. Decimal fractions are everywhere, from dividing up a pizza into equal slices to measuring the exact amount of ingredients for your favorite recipe.

Why are Decimals Important?

Decimals are so important in different real-life situations:

Spending Money: From calculating taxes to managing budgets, decimals help us deal with money accurately.

Measurements: Whether it’s measuring length, weight, or volume, decimals provide precise measurements.

Science and Engineering: Fields like physics, chemistry, and engineering rely heavily on decimal notation for calculations and measurements.

Getting a good grip on decimals is like unlocking a superpower for tackling everyday challenges. Once you’ve got the hang of decimal notation, place value, and how to work with them, you’ll find yourself breezing through all sorts of numerical tasks, both in your day-to-day life and in more complex situations.

So, next time you encounter a decimal, remember: it’s just a way of expressing a part of a whole, and with a little practice, you’ll master the art of decimals in no time!

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