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In mathematics, a percentage is a way of expressing a number as a fraction of 100 (per cent meaning "per hundred"
in atin!" It is often denoted using the percent sign, "#", or the abbre$iation "pct"" For example, %&# (read as
"forty'fi$e percent"! is e(ual to %&)100, or 0"%& "
*ercentages are used to express how large)small one (uantity is, relati$e to another (uantity" +he first (uantity
usually represents a part of, or a change in, the second (uantity, which should be greater than ,ero" For example, an
increase of - 0"1& on a price of - ."&0 is an increase by a fraction of 0"1&)."&0 / 0"00" 1xpressed as a percentage,
this is therefore a 0# increase"
2lthough percentages are usually used to express numbers between ,ero and one, any dimensionless proportionality
can be expressed as a percentage" For instance, 111# is 1"11 and 30"4&# is 30"004&"
• 1 5alculations
o 1"1 1xample problems
• . *ercentage increase and decrease
o ."1 5hange in sign
• 4 Word and symbol
+he fundamental concept to remember when performing calculations with percentages is that the percent symbol
can be treated as being e(ui$alent to the pure number constant 1 ) 100 / 0"01 , for example 4&# of 400 can be
written as (4&)100! 6 400 / 10&"
+o find the percentage that a single unit represents out of a whole of 7 units, di$ide 100# by 7" For instance, if you
ha$e 1.&0 apples, and you want to find out what percentage of these 1.&0 apples a single apple represents,
100#)1.&0 / (100)1.&0!# pro$ides the answer of 0"08#" 9o, if you gi$e away one apple, you ha$e gi$en away
0"08# of the apples you had" +hen, if instead you gi$e away 100 apples, you ha$e gi$en away 100 6 0"08# / 8# of
your 1.&0 apples"
+o calculate a percentage of a percentage, con$ert both percentages to fractions of 100, or to decimals, and multiply
them" For example, &0# of %0# is:
(&0)100! 6 (%0)100! / 0"&0 6 0"%0 / 0".0 / .0)100 / .0#"
It is not correct to di$ide by 100 and use the percent sign at the same time" (1"g" .&# / .&)100 / 0".&, not .&# )
100, which actually is (.&)100! ) 100 / 0"00.&"!
+he easy way to calculate 2ddition in percentage (discount 10# ; &!:
y / <(x1;x.! ' (x1=x.!)100>
for example: ?ept 9tore promotion: discount 10#;&#, the total discount is not 1&#, but:
y / <(10# ; &#! @ (10# = &#! ) 100> / <1&# @ 0"&#> / 1%"&#
Whene$er we talk about a percentage, it is important to specify what it is relati$e to, i"e" what is the total that
corresponds to 100#" +he following problem illustrates this point"
In a certain college 00# of all students are female, and 10# of all students are computer science maAors" If
&# of female students are computer science maAors, what percentage of computer science maAors are
We are asked to compute the ratio of female computer science maAors to all computer science maAors" We know that
00# of all students are female, and among these &# are computer science maAors, so we conclude that (00)100! 6
(&)100! / 4)100 or 4# of all students are female computer science maAors" ?i$iding this by the 10# of all students
that are computer science maAors, we arri$e at the answer: 4#)10# / 40)100 or 40# of all computer science maAors
+his example is closely related to the concept of conditional probability"
Cere are other examples:
1" What is .00# of 40B
." What is 14# of D8B
4" 00# of all uni$ersity students are female" +here are .%00 female students" Cow many students are in the
2nswer: , therefore "
%" +here are 400 cats in the $illage, and E& of them are black" What is the percentage of black cats in that
2nswer: , so and therefore n# / .&#"
&" +he number of students at the uni$ersity increased to %0.0, compared to last yearFs %1.&, an absolute
increase of %D& students" What is the percentual increaseB
2nswer: , so , and therefore n# / 1.#"
Percentage increase and decrease
9ometimes due to inconsistent usage, it is not always clear from the context what a percentage is relati$e to" When
speaking of a "10# rise" or a "10# fall" in a (uantity, the usual interpretation is that this is relati$e to the initial
value of that (uantity" For example, if an item is initially priced at -.00 and the price rises 10# (an increase of -.0!,
the new price will be -..0" 7ote that this final price is 110# of the initial price (100# ; 10# / 110#!"
9ome other examples of percent changes:
• 2n increase of 100# in a (uantity means that the final amount is .00# of the initial amount (100# of
initial ; 100# of increase / .00# of initial!G in other words, the (uantity has doubled"
• 2n increase of 800# means the final amount is D times the original (100# ; 800# / D00# / D times as
• 2 decrease of 00# means the final amount is %0# of the original (100# @ 00# / %0#!"
• 2 decrease of 100# means the final amount is zero (100# @ 100# / 0#!"
In general, a change of x percent in a (uantity results in a final amount that is 100 ; x percent of the original amount
(e(ui$alently, 1 ; 0"01x times the original amount!"
It is important to understand that percent changes, as they ha$e been discussed here, do not add in the usual way, if
applied se(uentially" For example, if the 10# increase in price considered earlier (on the -.00 item, raising its price
to -..0! is followed by a 10# decrease in the price (a decrease of -..!, the final price will be -1D8, not the original
price of -.00" +he reason for the apparent discrepancy is that the two percent changes (;10# and @10#! are
measured relati$e to different (uantities (-.00 and -..0, respecti$ely!, and thus do not "cancel out""
In general, if an increase of x percent is followed by a decrease of x percent, and the initial amount was p, the final
amount is p((1 ; 0"01x!(1 @ 0"01x!! / p(1 @ (0"01x!
!G thus the net change is an o$erall decrease by x percent of x
percent (the s(uare of the original percent change when expressed as a decimal number!" +hus, in the abo$e
example, after an increase and decrease of x / 10 percent, the final amount, -1D8, was 10# of 10#, or 1#, less than
the initial amount of -.00"
+his can be expanded for a case where you do not ha$e the same percent change" If the initial percent change is x
and the second percent change is y, and the initial amount was p, then the final amount is p((1 ; 0"01x!(1 ; 0"01y!!"
+o change the abo$e example, after an increase of x / 10 and decrease of y / @ & percent, the final amount, -.0D, is
%"&# more than the initial amount of -.00"
In the case of interest rates, it is a common practice to state the percent change differently" If an interest rate rises
from 10# to 1&#, for example, it is typical to say, "+he interest rate increased by &#" H rather than by &0#,
which would be correct when measured as a percentage of the initial rate (i"e", from 0"10 to 0"1& is an increase of
&0#!" 9uch ambiguity can be a$oided by using the term "percentage points"" In the pre$ious example, the interest
rate "increased by & percentage points" from 10# to 1&#" If the rate then drops by & percentage points, it will return
to the initial rate of 10#, as expected"
Change in sign
When the first number is negati$e and second number is positi$e, the percentage change from first number to
second number is negati$e" +his often occurs in financial statements that changes from a period of loss to period in
2cme 5ompany 1II+
First (uarter (100!
9econd (uarter 100
5hange in profitability (100 ' ('100!!)('100! / '.00#
In expressing a number as a percentage, the base of the comparison cannot be negati$e" +he First number in the
abo$e example is the base of the comparison when it is expressed as a positi$e amount becomes Loss of 100" +he
change from First (uarter loss to 9econd (uarter profit becomes Percentage change in loss by -200% to turn a
profit of 100"
Word and symbol
In Iritish 1nglish, percent is usually written as two words (per cent, although percentage and percentile are written
as one word!"
In 2merican 1nglish, percent is the most common $ariant
(but cf" per mille written as two words!"
In the early part of the twentieth century, there was a dotted abbre$iation form "per cent.", as opposed to "per cent""
+he form "per cent"" is still in use as a part of the highly formal language found in certain documents like
commercial loan agreements (particularly those subAect to, or inspired by, common law!, as well as in the Cansard
transcripts of Iritish *arliamentary proceedings" While the term has been attributed to atin per centum, this is a
pseudo'atin construction and the term was likely originally adopted from the French pour cent"
concept of considering $alues as parts of a hundred is originally Jreek" +he symbol for percent (#! e$ol$ed from a
symbol abbre$iating the Italian per cento" In some other languages, the form prosent is used instead" 9ome
languages use both a word deri$ed from percent and an expression in that language meaning the same thing, e"g"
Komanian procent and la sută (thus, 10 % can be read or sometimes written ten for [each] hundred, similarly with
the 1nglish one out of ten!" Lther abbre$iations are rarer, but sometimes seen"
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