Percents: Definition, Application & Examples

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  • 0:03 Percent Definition
  • 1:17 Fractions and Decimals
  • 3:12 Practice Problems
  • 5:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jeff Calareso

Jeff teaches high school English, math and other subjects. He has a master's degree in writing and literature.

Maybe you know that 95% is an A and 75% is a C. But what do those percents really mean? In this lesson, we'll learn about percents, including how to convert them to fractions and decimals.

Percent - Definition

OK, team, I need you to give all you've got. I want you to go out there and give 110%. I know it sounds impossible. And, well, it is. Before we work on plays, let's talk about percents.

The word percent literally means 'per hundred.' We use this symbol - % - for percents.

Let's take the word apart. It's per and cent. Where have you seen 'cent' before? Well, it's the word for a penny. It's also in the word century. What's a century? A hundred years. And then there's centennial; that's the 100-year anniversary. A centipede has 100 legs. Well, I think it does. I've never tried to count. And a woman who has centuplets is going to be crazy tired.

Let's talk about what percents mean. When you're hitting 99% of your shots, what did you do? If you took 100 shots, you made 99 of them. 99 per one hundred, per-cent. But what if you took 1,000 shots? Whoa. I bet your arms are tired. 99% means that you got 99 out of each hundred. So 99% of 1,000 is 990. Hitting 99% of your shots would also make you the best basketball player in the history of the world.

Fractions & Decimals

This is a stats-driven game, so let's talk about what we can do with percents. We can convert percents to fractions quite easily. For example, our team makes 43% of its free throws. Let's say we want to convert 43% to a fraction. That's 43 per one hundred. As a fraction, it's 43/100. That's it!

And then there's Fred the Flying Monkey, our team mascot. He jumps off a trampoline to make crazy dunks during halftime. He only makes 8% of his dunks. That sounds bad, but it's actually one of the best percentages among flying monkeys, with or without trampolines.

Anyway, if we had 8%, it'd be 8/100. No matter what your percent, just put it over 100, and you've made it into a fraction. With 8/100, we can simplify that to 2/25, which still doesn't sound great.

What about decimals? What is 43% as a decimal? Just drop the percent sign and move the decimal two places to the left. So 43% becomes .43. Why? Because .43 is 43 one-hundredths.

I said we make 43% of our free throws. What if we wanted to know what 43% of 17 is. We had 17 free throws in the last game. If we multiply 17 times .43, we get 7.31. The team made 8 of 17 free throws, so we were slightly above our average percentage.

What about 8%? I know, I know. Fred doesn't like to talk about it. But still, just drop the sign and move the decimal two places to the left. So 8% becomes .08. The math is the same. To figure out his success in 50 attempts, we'd multiply 50 times .08, which is 4. Hey, 4 is better than 0!

Practice Problems

Let's try some practice problems involving percents. Just as there are different ways to win a basketball game, there are different ways to solve a percent problem. As we go through these, let's try a few different methods for solving them.

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