Basic Workplace Numeracy Skills – Working With Fractions, Decimals, & Percentages

Working With Fractions, Decimals, and Percentages

Are you terrified of figures? Does your head spin every time someone at work asks you to solve “simple” mathematical problems? Well don’t worry: you are not alone.

Although it might seem like some people are blessed with natural numerical ability, most of us are only human. We can often struggle to comprehend the likes of percentages and fractions in our head. Sadly, mathematics is like that unbearable cousin you can’t dodge forever.

However, everyone has dealt with basic math in primary school. If kids can do it, why not you?

This article will be a reminder of your early arithmetic classes. So, let’s take this journey back to elementary school math class, and ensure there are no more embarrassing situations with your boss. Well math-based ones, anyway.

Understanding Fractions

A fraction, as we understand, is a tiny portion of something. In math, it is less than a whole number. For example, 1 is a whole number, but half of 1 is ½. ½ is a fraction.

Hold on, don’t reach for the calculator just yet. Fractions may appear scary on the surface, but they are really simple. The following sections will look at additions, subtractions, multiplications, and divisions of fractions:

Adding fractions 

Suppose we are trying to add ½ with .

½ + ⅓   =?

In a fraction, numerator is the upper half. The lower half is the denominator.

By multiplying 2 by 3 we get 6.

We multiply the numerator in each fraction by the number that we get when we divide 6 with each respective denominator.

12 + 13 equals to 36 + 26

By adding the numerators we get:

36 + 26 = 56

The Simplest Value

There might be a smaller common denominator than the one we get when multiplying the denominators.

If we do the same for 23 + 16, we get:

23 + 16 = 1218 + 318 = 1518

We can get smaller numbers by dividing 15 and 18 by 3, resulting in 56. This is the simplest value we can find.

But, in 23 + 16, 6 is a multiple of the other denominator 3. Therefore, instead of multiplying with each other, we could simply use 6 instead of 18.

23 + 16 becomes 46 + 16 which equals 56.

Subtracting fractions

In the same way as addition, we get a shared denominator when subtracting fractions.

Now, however, we subtract the numerators:

1516 is the same as 630530 = 130

Multiplying fractions

For multiplication, first multiply the two numerators:

25 × 67

For this example, we multiply 2 by 6 to get 12.

Then it’s a case of multiplying the denominators.

Here, you multiply 5 by 7 to get 35.

In the end, we have:

25 × 67= 1235

For some fractions, we can also make the result more straightforward.

Take, 25 × 57

Taking into account the previous solution, the answer is 1035.

However, we can divide both the numerator and denominator by 5.

Hence, 1035 = 27.

Dividing Fractions

For dividing one fraction by another, we take the fraction we are dividing by, and turn it upside down. For example:

56 ÷ 1512

We first turn the 1512 upside down. So 1512 becomes 1215

After that, we multiply the two fractions together:

56 × 1215 = 23

Like the previous cases, if simplification is possible, the answer should be the simplified value.

For example:

56 × 1220 = 24

Here 24 = 12. So we get 12   as the answer.

Understanding Decimals

The tenth, hundredth, thousandth (to infinity) units of numbers are known as decimals. To help with understanding, it’s important to note fractions are also decimals.

For instance, 12   = 0.5.

Adding Decimals

Adding decimals is the same as regular addition. Although remember: you need to align the decimal points.

For example, in the case of 563.45 and 243.22, they should appear like:


+ 243.22


Subtracting Decimals

Subtraction works like addition. Working from right to left, we again align the decimal places.

For instance, with 563.45 and 243.22, it would appear as:


– 243.22


Multiplying Decimals

First of all, we multiply decimal numbers in the same way as normal numbers. In fact, we actually ignore the decimal.

For 11.55 × 5.96 we can write:


  × 596

Which equals 688,380.

Yet you cannot forget about the decimals. When those two aforementioned values – 11.55 and 5.96 – were combined, four numbers came after the decimal points.

As a result, we place the decimal four places from the end of the total.

This gives us the answer 68.8380.

Dividing Decimals

Division works in the same way as multiplication. We ignore the decimals and instead go with whole numbers.

Suppose: 11.55 ÷ 5.96 = 1155 ÷ 596

It’s the same as before, where four numbers come after decimals for the two values combined. Consequently, we place the decimal four places from the end. The answer: 1.9379. With such complex values, it is wise to use a calculator.

Understanding Percentages

Suppose there is a 7% tax on the price of an item. To find the total price, we need to figure out the 7% value.

Let’s say we have an initial price of $40. To start with, we take 1 percent of the figure. Percentage is the hundredth unit of the value. So, 1% of 40 equals to 1100 × 40.

In fractions,

1100 × 401 = 40100 = 410.

In decimal form, it is 0.4. With dollars, 0.4 equals to 40 cents.

Since 1% is 0.4.

7%= 0.4 × 7 = 2.8

With this in mind, the sales tax to add is $2.80. We add this value to the initial price of $40, ending up with an actual price of $42.80.

Subtracting a Percentage

The initial price of a product is, say, $200. We receive a 30 percent discount.

As before, we are looking for 1% of 200:

1100 × 2 = 2100

2100  also equals to 0.02.

If we multiply 0.02 by 30, we will get 30%.

0.02 × 30 = 0.6

This gives 0.6. In dollars, the discount would be $60.

As a result, the total price after reducing the discounted amount:

$200 − $60 = $140

Giving a number as a Percentage of another:

Consider the situation where there are 50 employees at a firm, and 10 of them are interns. Well, we are looking for the % of interns compared to total employee numbers.

In fractions:

10 of 50 equals 1050 = 15.

To convert 15 to a percentage. The denominator must be equal to 100.

5 × 20 = 100

We do the same with the numerator: 1 × 20 = 20

By combining both we get:  20100

As a percentage, it is: 20100 = 20%. This means 20% of the employees are interns.


Basic mathematics is an important part of our daily lives. After all, the ability to cope with numbers and equations is expected by employers. While it’s important that you understand and know how to work out these problems, to save time, you also need to learn how to use a graphing calculator to get speedy results.

So next time a colleague asks about stock percentages or otherwise, answer confidently!

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