What's a Percentage? - Simple Economic History
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What's a Percentage?

flock of sheep
Flock of sheep

A percentage is a certain number of hundredths of something. For instance, if you have a hundred sheep, and you give five of them to the government for taxes, that is five percent (5%). If you have only ten sheep and you give five of them for taxes, that is 50%. Can you see why?

(Because 50 is half of 100, just as five is half of ten; fifty hundredths is the same as five tenths.)


If you have a hundred pounds of wheat, and you give five pounds of wheat to the government, that is also 5% of your wheat.

To learn how to calculate percentages, check out this book:

Delightful Decimals and Perfect Percents: Games and Activities That Make Math Easy and Fun, by Lynette Long.

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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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