Adding and Subtracting Decimals
Learning Objective(s)
· Add two or more decimals.
· Subtract two or more decimals, with and without regrouping.
· Solve application problems that require decimal addition or subtraction.
Introduction
Since dollars and cents are typically written as decimals, you often need to work with decimals. Knowing how to add and subtract decimal numbers is essential when you deposit money to (and withdraw money from) your bank account; perform an incorrect calculation, and you may be costing yourself some cash!
When adding or subtracting decimals, it is essential that you pay attention to the place value of the digits in the numbers you are adding or subtracting. This will be the key idea in the discussion that follows. Let’s begin with an everyday example that illustrates this idea before moving into more general techniques.
Suppose Celia needs $0.80 to ride the bus from home to her office. She reaches into her purse and pulls out the following coins: 3 quarters, 1 dime and 2 pennies. Does she have enough money to ride the bus?
Take a moment to think about this problem. Does she have enough money? Some people may solve it like this: “I know each quarter is 25¢, so three quarters is 75¢. Adding a dime brings me to 85¢, and then another two pennies is 87¢. So, Celia does have enough money to ride the bus.”
This problem provides a good starting point for our conversation because you can use your knowledge about pocket change to understand the basics about how to add decimals. The coins you use every day can all be represented as whole cent values, as shown above. But they can also be represented as decimal numbers, too, because quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies are each worth less than one whole dollar.
Currency  Value (cents)  Value (dollars) 
Dollar bill  100¢  $1 
Quarter  25¢  $0.25 
Dime  10¢  $0.10 
Nickel  5¢  $0.05 
Penny  1¢  $0.01 
Celia has 87¢. You can also write this amount in terms of the number of dollars she has: $0.87. The table below shows a stepbystep approach to adding the coins in terms of cents and also as dollars. As you review the table, pay attention to the place values.
Coin combination  Value (cents)  Value (dollars) 
Quarter Quarter Quarter Dime Penny + Penny Eightyseven cents  25¢ 25¢ 25¢ 10¢ 1¢ + 1¢ 87¢  $0.25 $0.25 $0.25 $0.10 $0.01 + $0.01 $0.87 
When you add whole numbers, as shown in the Value (cents) column above, you line up the numbers so that the digits in the ones placevalue column are aligned.
In order to keep the numbers in the proper placevalue column when adding decimals, align the decimal points. This will keep the numbers aligned; ones to ones, tenths to tenths, hundredths to hundredths, and so on. Look at the column titled Value (dollars). You will see that place value is maintained, and that the decimal points align from top to bottom.
Adding Decimals
To add decimals: · Align the decimal points, which will allow all the digits to be aligned according to their place values. · Add just as you would add whole numbers, beginning on the right and progressing to the left. · Write the decimal point in the sum, aligned with the decimal points in the numbers being added.

Example  
Problem  Add. 0.23 + 4.5 + 20.32  
 0.23 4.5 + 20.32
 Write the numbers so that the decimal points are aligned. 
 0.23 4.50 + 20.32
 Optional: Write an extra “0” at the end of 4.5 to keep the numbers in the correct position. (Adding this zero does not change the value of the decimal or the sum of the three numbers.) 
 0.23 4.50 + 20.32 25.05
 Add. Begin at the right and move left.
Align the decimal point in the sum with the decimal points in the numbers being added. 
Answer  0.23 + 4.5 + 20.32 = 25.05 
Example  
Problem  Add. 4.041 + 8 + 510.042  
 4.041 8 + 510.042
 Write the numbers so that the decimal points are aligned. 
 4.041 8.000 + 510.042
 As presented in the problem, the number 8 does not have a decimal point. You can rewrite this number as 8.0, 8.00, or 8.000 without changing the value of the number. Using 8.000 will allow you to align it with the other two numbers. 
 4.041 8.000 + 510.042 522.083
 Add. Begin at the right and move left.
Align the decimal point in the sum with the decimal points in the numbers being added. 
Answer  4.041 + 8 + 510.042 = 522.083 
Add: 0.08 + 0.156
A) 0.956
B) 0.236
C) 0.164
D) 0.1568

Subtracting decimals uses the same setup as adding decimals: line up the decimal points, and then subtract.
In cases where you are subtracting two decimals that extend to different place values, it often makes sense to add extra zeros to make the two numbers line up—this makes the subtraction a bit easier to follow.
Subtracting Decimals
To subtract decimals: · Align the decimal points, which will allow all of the digits to be aligned according to their place values. · Subtract just as you would subtract whole numbers, beginning on the right and progressing to the left. · Align the decimal point in the difference directly below the decimal points in the numbers that were subtracted.

Example  
Problem  Subtract. 39.672 – 5.431  
 39.672 − 5.431
 Write the numbers so that the decimal points are aligned. 
 39.672 − 5.431 34.241
 Subtract. Begin at the right and move left.
Align the decimal point in the difference with the decimal points in the numbers being subtracted. 
Answer  39.672 – 5.431 = 34.241 
Example  
Problem  Subtract. 0.9 – 0.027  
 0.9 – 0.027
 Write the numbers so that the decimal points are aligned. 
 0.900 – 0.027
 Optional: Write two extra “0”s after 9. This will help you line up the numbers and perform the subtraction. 

0.900 – 0.027 0.873
 Subtract. Regroup as needed.

Answer  0.9 – 0.027 = 0.873 
Subtract. 43.21 – 8.1
A) 35.11
B) 42.40
C) 37.79
D) 35.2

In adding and subtracting decimals, you may have noticed that as long as you line up the decimal points in the numbers you are adding or subtracting, you can operate upon them as you would whole numbers.
Determining whether you need to add or subtract in a given situation is also straightforward. If two quantities are being combined, then add them. If one is being withdrawn from the other, then subtract them.
Example  
Problem  Javier has a balance of $1,800.50 in his personal checking account. He pays two bills out of this account: a $50.23 electric bill, and a $70.80 cell phone bill.
How much money is left in Javier’s checking account after he pays these bills?  
 1800.50 – 50.23
 Since Javier is paying out money, you will subtract, starting with the electric bill.


1800.50 – 50.23 1750.27

Align the decimals and subtract, regrouping as needed.

 1750.27 – 70.80
 Javier has $1,750.27 remaining after he pays his electric bill. Next, subtract his cell phone bill, $70.80, from this new amount. 
 1750.27 – 70.80 1679.47
 Align the decimals and subtract, regrouping as needed. 
Answer  Javier has $1,679.47 left in his checking account after paying his bills. 
Helene ran the 100meter dash twice on Saturday. The difference between her two times was 0.3 seconds. Which pair of numbers below could have been her individual race times?
A) 14.22 and 14.25 seconds
B) 14.22 and 17.22 seconds
C) 14.22 and 14.58 seconds
D) 14.22 and 13.92 seconds

Summary
When adding or subtracting decimals, you must always align the decimal points, which will allow the placevalue positions to fall in place. Then add or subtract as you do with whole numbers, regrouping as necessary. You can use these operations to solve realworld problems involving decimals, especially those with money.