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How to Work Out a Percentage Using a Calculator
If you’ve ever found yourself staring at a half-eaten pie, wondering how the portion that’s left compares to the size of the original pie, congratulations: You’ve been contemplating percentages. Although technically the term “percentage” refers to a portion out of 100, in real-world terms it really deals with how a portion of something – say, that half-eaten pie – compares to the whole. For example, one-half is equal to 50 percent, or 50 out of 100. You can use a calculator to easily work out percentages.
The three terms in a percentage calculation
The three terms in a percentage calculation are the part, the whole, and the percentage. In the equation:
10 is the part, 40 is the whole, and 25 is the percentage. In the math world, working out percentages usually means that one of those terms is missing and you need to find it. If the question is “What percentage of 40 is 10?” you have the part (10) and the whole (40), so the omitted term is the percentage. If the question is “What is 25 percent of 40?” you have the percentage (25) and the whole (40), so the missing term is the part. Using the same logic, if the question is “10 is 25 percent of what?” the missing term is the whole.
If the omitted term is the percentage, divide the part by the whole using your calculator to determine the answer. For the example equation, this is
If your calculator has a percentage button, press it to determine the percentage. If your calculator does not have such a button, multiply your previous answer by 100 to determine the percentage:
If your calculator does not have a percentage button, you must first divide the percentage by 100:
You can then multiply this answer by the whole to determine the part:
If the omitted term is the whole, divide the part by the percentage to determine the answer. If your calculator has a percentage button, the calculation is as follows:
If your calculator does not have a percentage button, you must divide the percentage by 100 before completing the calculation:
You can then divide the part by this answer to determine the whole:
How to Do Percentages on a Calculator
Review the general meaning of fractions. A fraction is a comparison between two numbers, usually representing the size of a part of something to the size of the whole thing. The classic example is a pie that is cut into eight, for example, equal portions. The top of the fraction, called the
The bottom of the fraction, called the
– in this case, 8.
- For example, the fraction 1/8 represents one piece of the pie that has been cut in eight pieces.
- The fraction 7/8 represents 7 pieces, almost the full pie.
Recognize the special relationship of percentages. A percentage is a special kind of fraction in which the
 While this is not practical when cutting slices of an actual pie, the concept of percentages is much more useful because it is standard.
- With fractions, the size of “half” of something will depend on the number of pieces. If your “pie” is cut into 8 pieces, then half would be 4. But if your “pie” is in 22 pieces, then half would be 11. The target always changes. But with percentages, one-half is always the same – 50%.
- It’s helpful to remember that the word “percent” actually means “of 100″—”per” means “of,” and “cent” means “100.”
Use a calculator to convert any fraction to a decimal or percentage. If you are presented with any fraction, you can very easily convert it to a decimal number using any calculator. Just recognize that a fraction represents a division problem, and
Your calculator will give you the decimal equivalent of the fraction.
- Suppose you have the fraction 1/2. On your calculator, perform the operation 1 ÷ 2, and the calculator will show the result 0.5.
- Convert the fraction 1/4 into a decimal by performing the operation 1 ÷ 4. The result is 0.25.
- For a more complicated example, you can convert the fraction 274/312 into a decimal with the operation 274 ÷ 312. The result will be 0.878. (There are more digits, but for our purposes we can stop at three.)
Convert decimals to percentages by shifting the decimal point. If you have a number that is already represented by a decimal, converting that to a percentage is easy. Because the decimal numbering system is based on factors of 10, you can transform a decimal number into a percentage by simply
If your decimal number consists of only one digit, you can add 0’s on the right of the number, such as turning 0.5 into 0.50 or even 0.500. These all have the same numerical value.
- Consider the example above of 1/2, which we converted to the decimal of 0.5. To change this decimal to a percentage, shift the decimal point two spaces to the right. First rewrite 0.5 as 0.50. Then when you shift the decimal point two spaces, you turn 0.50 into the number 50%.
- The example of 1/4, which has a decimal equivalent of 0.25, can be turned into the percentage 25%..