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The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Percentages Effectively


Teaching Percentages

Learning percents can be difficult for students, but with the right resources and strategies, it can be an enriching and rewarding experience. I've compiled some helpful tips for teachers who want to successfully teach their students about the fundamentals of percents.

Introduce Simple Examples Initially

When first teaching percents, start with some simple examples that illustrate how to calculate percentages and explain how they can be applied in everyday life. Encourage your students to think of real-life examples that involve percents, such as discounts at the store or tips at restaurants. Ask them to explain how percents are used in each example.

  • Discounts at the store: When a store offers a discount, they are usually expressed as a percentage off the original price. For example, if an item is marked down from $20 to $15, that is a 25% discount. Ask students to calculate the amount of the discount, as well as the final price when the discount is applied.

  • Tips at restaurants: Give students menus from local restaurants. Ask them to plan their entire meal. Then ask students to calculate different tips, along with the final price of the meal. This will help them better grasp the concept.

Create Hands-On Activities to Enhance Learning

Much of the difficulty with learning percents can be attributed to its abstract nature. To make the subject more concrete and easier to understand, create hands-on activities to illustrate percentages.

  • Coin Activity: Have students use coins to illustrate percent. For example, if a student needs to represent 25%, they can use four quarters (25 cents each) to represent 100 cents, or 100%. They they can use one quarter, (25 cents) to illustrate 25 out of 100, or 25%.

  • Shopping Task Cards: Use these task cards to have students apply percentages to saving money while shopping! This set of 24 task cards will let students apply percentages in a variety of ways. First, students will calculate the discount on a variety of items, along with the final price. Next, students will the original price of grocery store items, along with a discount. They will calculate the amount of the discount and the final price of the item. Finally, students will be presented with an item and the cost. They will choose between two choices - a percentage discount and a total amount off. Students will calculate both prices and determine the best one.

Use Visuals To Explain Percents in Different Situations

Make use of visuals such as diagrams, pictures, and interactive graphs to help students understand how percents are used in various situations. For example, a bar graph is an effective way to illustrate trends or compare different values with respect to percents. Demonstrate the concept of discounts using real-life scenarios with prices. Integrate story problems that require students to calculate percents, and provide them with guidance by walking them through steps in solving the problem.

  • Sample Problem: A store is having a sale. All items are 20% off. If you buy a shirt that costs $50, how much will it cost after the discount?

  • Solution: To solve this problem, we need to calculate the amount of the discount and then subtract it from the original price of the shirt. The discount would be 0.20 x $50, which is $10. The original price of the shirt is $50. If you do $50 - $10, the sale price of the shirt would be $40.

Have Students Describe Percentages Using Numbers and Words Interchangeably

An important step in teaching percents is to get your students to understand that percentages and fractions can be used interchangeably. Have students describe a percent in terms of numbers and words. Encourage students to use words such as 'percentage' and 'fraction' when discussing the same number. This will help them understand how percents can be expressed in different ways

  • Example: "50%" can also be expressed as ½ or one half, or the fraction 50/100.

  • Example: If a student is discussing the number 25%, they can also explain it as 1/4 or 25 out of 100. By using both terms, students will gain a better understanding of percentages.

Teach Percentages by Encouraging Real-World Use of Percents with Everyday Problems

Once students understand how to convert fractions and decimals into percents, it is important to demonstrate how these skills can be used in real-world situations. Get students to think of real-life tasks that involve using percentages.

  1. Calculating a sales tax rate

  2. Calculating the amount of a discount

  3. Determining the grade for an exam or assignment

  4. Computing the interest rate on a loan

  5. Working out how much to tip in a restaurant

  6. Calculating the cost of items after applying a percentage-off coupon

Challenge your students to explain the correct percentage they should use, or the total price with taxes. These hands-on activities will help students make sense of percents and see how they are used in their everyday lives.

Show Students Multiple Ways to Solve Problems

I have been a teacher for 2 decades. One thing I quickly learned was that students learn in different ways. When you teach math, students need to know the algorithm, but they also need to know how and why it works. You are empowering your students when you can help them think mathematically. It's best practice to teach students multiple ways to solve problems, because our students learn in different ways. Below are a few videos that show different ways to find percentages.

Share Your Ideas

How do you teach percentages? Leave a comment and let me know any tips that have helped your students!


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