Decimal numbers make it easy to work with fractional amounts. We show fractions of dollars
using the decimal system. We can make distance calculations easier by using the metric system
instead of miles-feet-inches.
Decimal numbers or decimal fractions are a proper fraction based on the number 10. They
use a decimal point separating the fraction from the whole number. Decimal numbers are written
without showing denominators. Decimal numbers have three parts: an integer, a decimal point,
and a decimal number.
We use the same place value system for decimals that we use for whole numbers. Anywhere
you look in a whole number, the value of the place to the right of a digit is always ten times
smaller. The tens place is ten times smaller than the hundreds place, and the ones place is ten
times smaller than the tens place.
To find the value of the place to the right of the ones place, divide one by ten: 1
÷ 10 = 1/10 = one-tenth. The first place to the right of the decimal point is the
tenths place. The value to the
right of the tenths place is the 1/10 ÷ 10, and is called the hundredths place. This chart shows
some common place values.
Writing Decimal Numbers
Between each whole number, this number line is divided into tenths. Decimals with values less
than 1 are written with a 0 in the ones place.
To write five tenths, write a 0 in the ones place and a 5 in the tenths place, with a decimal
point in between: 0.5.
Whole numbers can also be written with one or more zeros after the decimal point:
3 = 3.0,
1 = 1.000,
0 = 0.00000
The number line below shows what is in the area between 0 and 0.5 from the number line
above. Between each of the tenths values, the number line is divided into hundredths. Notice
the denominator, hundredths, names the last place on the right that is holding a digit.
To write five hundredths, write a 0 in the tenths place and a 5 in the hundredths place: 0.05.
The 0 is needed as a placeholder between the decimal point and the hundredths digit.
How would you write three and nine hundredths as a decimal?
The and tells you where to put the decimal point: after the 3. The hundredths
tells you there are two decimal places in the number and that a 9 goes in the
hundredths place: 3.09
Changing Decimals to Fractions
It is easy to convert decimals to fractions. Look at the number 0.27, or twenty-seven
hundredths. The hundredths tells you the denominator is 100. The numerator will be the
numeral to the right of the decimal point, which is 27 in this case. Do not write the decimal point
in the fraction.
You must look for fractions that can be reduced. For example, look at the number 0.32, or
thirty-two hundredths. Write the fraction and then reduce it to lowest terms.
Changing Fractions to Decimals
Decimal numbers are really just a shortcut method of writing common fractions, where the
denominator is 10 or 100 or 1000 and so forth. You can convert fractions into decimal
numbers by making the denominator a multiple of 10. The denominator will indicate the smallest
place value that should appear in the decimal.
You can also change a fraction to a decimal if the fraction has a denominator other than 10, but
you need to know about decimal division to do this. Or, use a calculator.
Note: When a decimal number is less than one, we always write the zero to the left of the
decimal point. Without the leading zero, the reader might not notice that tiny little mark for the
Some fractions when written as a decimal number will repeat forever. To write a repeating
decimal, put a bar over the rightmost digit (or digits) that repeat. For example,
Why do some fractions repeat and others don't? Notice that decimal numbers represent the
and so forth. Now take a closer look at the factors in these
. In fact, every position in the decimal number
represents some multiple of 2's and 5's. This works well for fractions containing any multiples of
halves and fifths. But it is impossible to exactly represent thirds, sixths or anything with factors
other than 2 or 5!