Percent on a Number Line

I have a confession to make. I used to be one of those math teachers that taught short cuts. Years ago that exactly how we taught. Educators would cram as many tricks, acronyms, and use whatever means necessary to get the students to remember topics. I now cringe at one of those tricks that I used when teaching percent of a number.

Let me first show you how I USED to teach percent.

When I taught percent, I saw a pattern with percent problems. There was always an “is” and an “of” with each problem. The number before “is” was the “part” and the number after “of” was the “whole”. Problems in the texts usually set up their percentage problems that would read “25 is 50% of what number?” or “What number is 40% of 120?” or “15 is what percent of 60?” Those were the 3 variations of percent problems. Each one of them has that “is” and the “of”. Rather than teaching students about the part to whole ratio and making it into a proportion, I was asking them to do word searches to find the clues. Not my proudest lesson.

But now I try to teach my students a bit more holistically. I find things that help make sense of what we are trying to accomplish. Just this week I taught percent and one of my students exclaimed, “this makes sense.” That is music to my ears! And my secret recipe to teaching percents is 2 words….number lines. Number lines are one of the tools that students will continuously see and use throughout the math curriculum.

Take a look at the video below as I demonstrate a few examples.

Using a single number line is much easier for students in that they have seen ratio tables that are doing similar operations. I’ve seen teachers try to explain this using a tape diagram or double number line, but I find using one number line just as easy.

How do you teach percent?

Until next time,




Leave a Comment