Statements about percentage increase or decrease need to specify what the whole is to be mathematically meaningful. Sometimes advertisements, media, etc. leave the whole ambiguous in order to make somewhat misleading claims. We should be careful to think critically about what mathematical claim is being made.
For example, if a disinfectant claims to "kill 99% of all bacteria," does it mean that
- It kills 99% of the number of bacteria on a surface?
- Or is it 99% of the types of bacteria commonly found inside the house?
- Or 99% of the total mass or volume of bacteria?
- Does it even matter if the remaining 1% are the most harmful bacteria?
Resolving questions of this type is an important step in making informed decisions.