A total represents the entirety of a given quantity. If we have a 14 inch pizza, the total amount of pizza we have is the whole 14" pizza. If we were to cut the pizza into 8 slices, the total could also be represented by the 8 slices.

The concept of a total is used in many different contexts, not just math, but it is common to quantify a total using numbers or some form of measurement.


If 27 students are going on a field trip, how many cars do we need if 5 students can fit in each car?

27 ÷ 5 = 5 with a remainder of 2

We would need 6 cars in total to be able to bring all 27 students.

In a mathematical context, the total can also mean a sum. If we were to add two or more numbers, the result of the addition is the sum, which could also be referred to as the total. One slight difference is that the total doesn't necessarily have to be a result of addition.


If you have 8 slices of pizza, and you eat 3 slices, how many total slices do you have left?

8 - 3 = 5

You have 5 total slices of pizza left. This wouldn't usually be considered a sum since the operation of subtraction is used rather than addition. A total is largely based on context, so it has broader use. For example, we also could have asked how many slices of pizza did you eat in total if you started with 8 slices and only have 5 left. The answer is 3 in total.

Totals are also commonly used in the context of cost. The total cost of something is the cost of everything associated with whatever it is you're trying to do, be it buying groceries, materials for a project, clothes, and more. The total cost is just the sum of all the costs that are involved.


What is the total cost of your groceries if you bought:

  • 1 gallon of milk - $2.50
  • 1 dozen eggs - $2.00
  • 2 heads of broccoli - $0.50 each
  • 3 lbs of chicken breast - $10.00
  • 1 lb of rice - $0.75

The total cost is the sum of all the costs:

2.5 + 2 + 2×0.5 + 10 + 0.75 = $16.25

The total cost without tax is $16.25.