A Decimal Number (based on the number 10) contains a Decimal Point.


First, let's have an example:

decimal number 45.6

Here is the number "forty-five and six-tenths" written as a decimal number:


The decimal point goes between Ones and Tenths.


45.6 has 4 Tens, 5 Ones and 6 Tenths, like this:

decimal number 45.6 = 40 + 5 + 6/10

Now, let's discover how it all works ...

Place Value

It is all about Place Value !

When we write numbers, the position (or "place") of each digit
is important.

In the number 327:

Place Value
"Three Hundred Twenty Seven"
left As we move left, each position is 10 times bigger!
  Tens are 10 times bigger than Ones
are 10 times bigger than Tens

... and ...

As we move right, each position is 10 times smaller. right
From Hundreds, to Tens, to Ones  


But what if we continue past Ones?

What is 10 times smaller than Ones?

110ths (Tenths) are!


But we must first put a decimal point,
so we know exactly where the Ones position is:

"three hundred twenty seven and four tenths"

but we usually just say "three hundred twenty seven point four"

And that is a Decimal Number!


We can continue with smaller and smaller values, from tenths, to hundredths, and so on, like in this example:

decimal 17.591

Have a play with decimal numbers yourself:


Large and Small

So, our Decimal System lets us write numbers as large or as small as we want, using the decimal point. Digits can be placed to the left or right of a decimal point, to show values greater than one or less than one.

The decimal point is the most important part of a Decimal Number. Without it we are lost, and don't know what each position means.

 17 dot blue 591
On the left of the decimal point is a whole number (such as 17).   As we move further left, every place gets 10 times bigger. left arrow dot blue
dot blue right arrow The first digit on the right is tenths (1/10).   As we move further right, every place gets 10 times smaller (one tenth as big).

Zoom into decimals ...

See decimals on the Zoomable Number Line
number line decimals

Definition of Decimal

The word "Decimal" really means "based on 10" (From Latin decima: a tenth part).

We sometimes say "decimal" when we mean anything to do with our numbering system, but a "Decimal Number" usually means there is a Decimal Point.

Ways to think about Decimal Numbers ...

... as a Whole Number Plus Tenths, Hundredths, etc

We can think of a decimal number as a whole number plus tenths, hundredths, etc:

Example 1: What is 2.3 ?

  • On the left side is "2", that is the whole number part.
  • The 3 is in the "tenths" position, meaning "3 tenths", or 3/10
  • So, 2.3 is "2 and 3 tenths"

Example 2: What is 13.76 ?

  • On the left side is "13", that is the whole number part.
  • There are two digits on the right side, the 7 is in the "tenths" position, and the 6 is the "hundredths" position
  • So, 13.76 is "13 and 7 tenths and 6 hundredths"

... as a Decimal Fraction

Or we can think of a decimal number as a Decimal Fraction.

A Decimal Fraction is a fraction where the denominator (the bottom number) is a number such as 10, 100, 1000, etc (in other words a power of ten)

So "2.3" looks like: 23 10
And "13.76" looks like: 1376 100


... as a Whole Number and Decimal Fraction

Or we can think of a decimal number as a Whole Number plus a Decimal Fraction.

So "2.3" looks like: 2 and 3 10
And "13.76" looks like: 13 and 76 100

Those are all good ways to think of decimal numbers.


950, 2529, 2530, 2531, 3449, 3450,949, 1328, 3451, 3452