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Use a Pie Chart to Find Percentages and Amounts

A pie chart, which looks like a divided circle, shows you how a whole object is cut up into parts. Pie charts are most often used to represent percentages. For example, the following figure is a pie chart representing Eileen’s monthly expenses.


You can tell at a glance that Eileen’s largest expense is rent and that her second largest is her car. Unlike a bar graph, the pie chart shows numbers that are dependent upon each other. For example, if Eileen’s rent increases to 30% of her monthly income, she’ll have to decrease her spending in at least one other area.

Here are a few typical questions you may be asked about a pie chart:

  • Individual percentages: What percentage of her monthly expenses does Eileen spend on food? Find the slice that represents what Eileen spends on food, and notice that she spends 10% of her income there.

  • Differences in percentages: What percentage more does she spend on her car than on entertainment? Eileen spends 20% on her car but only 5% on entertainment, so the difference between these percentages is 15%.

  • How much a percent represents in terms of dollars: If Eileen brings home $2,000 per month, how much does she put away in savings each month? First notice that Eileen puts 15% every month into savings. So you need to figure out 15% of $2,000. Solve this problem by turning 15% into a decimal and multiplying:

    0.15 2,000 = 300

    So Eileen saves $300 every month.

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