What is descending order?

We explain what descending order means and give examples of how the concept might relate to numbers, decimals, fractions or amounts of money.

What is descending order?

When numbers are put in descending order, they are ordered from largest to smallest.

Children at primary school are usually required to order numbers from smallest to largest (in ascending order). They are not expected to know the terms 'ascending' or 'descending', however it may be useful for them to learn these terms.

Descending order: numbers, dates and letters

It is possible a child could be asked to order numbers from largest to smallest (descending order). This could be whole numbers, decimals, fractions or amounts of money.

For example:

Five children emptied their pockets of coins. These are the amounts of money each one had in their pockets: 67p  £1.85  99p  £2.17  38p

Write these amounts of money in order, from largest to smallest.

A child would be expected to re-order the amounts of money in this order: £2.17  £1.85  99p  67p   38p

If you are asked to put a list of dates in descending order, that would be from latest date to earliest date, so these dates:

3rd May 2013  4th January 2013 6th December 2013

would be changed into this order:

6th December 2013  3rd May 2013  4th January 2013

Descending order is also used for putting words into alphabetical order, although they go backwards, from Z to A, so these words: