In the decimal system, the position of the period or decimal point determines the place value of the digits. For example, the digits in the number 7,654.321 have the following place values:

dec1

Examples

dec ex

Sometimes decimals are expressed as the product of a number with only one digit to the left of the decimal point and a power of 10. This is called scientific notation. For example, 231 can be written as 2.31 × 102 and 0.0231 can be written as 2.31 × 10–2. When a number is expressed in scientific notation, the exponent of the 10 indicates the number of places that the decimal point is to be moved in the number that is to be multiplied by a power of 10 in order to obtain the product. The decimal point is moved to the right if the exponent is positive and to the left if the exponent is negative. For example, 2.013 × 104 is equal to 20,130 and 1.91 × 10–4 is equal to 0.000191.

Addition and Subtraction of Decimals

To add or subtract two decimals, the decimal points of both numbers should be lined up. If one of the numbers has fewer digits to the right of the decimal point than the other, zeros may be inserted to the right of the last digit. For example, to add 17.6512 and 653.27, set up the numbers in a column and add:

dec add

For 653.27 minus 17.6512:

dec sub

Multiplication of Decimals

To multiply decimals, multiply the numbers as if they were whole numbers and then insert the decimal point in the product so that the number of digits to the right of the decimal point is equal to the sum of the numbers of digits to the right of the decimal points in the numbers being multiplied. For example:

dec mul

Division of Decimals

To divide a number (the dividend) by a decimal (the divisor), move the decimal point of the divisor to the right until the divisor is a whole number. Then move the decimal point of the dividend the same number of places to the right, and divide as you would by a whole number. The decimal point in the quotient will be directly above the decimal point in the new dividend. For example, to divide 698.12 by 12.4:

dec div1

dec div2