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Round Significant Figures

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how do you round significant figures

Oct 19th, 2017

Rounding to a significant figure is when you have to round to "an appropriate number of significant digits". What are significant digits? Well, they're sort of the "interesting" or "important" digits. For example,

3.14159 has six significant digits (all the numbers give you useful information)

1000 has one significant digit (only the 1 is interesting; you don't know anything for sure about the hundreds, tens, or units places; the zeroes may just be placeholders; they may have rounded something off to get this value)

1000.0 has five significant digits (the ".0" tells us something interesting about the presumed accuracy of the measurement being made: that the measurement is accurate to the tenths place, but that there happen to be zero tenths)

0.00035 has two significant digits (only the 3 and 5 tell us something; the other zeroes are placeholders, only providing information about relative size)

0.000350 has three significant digits (that last zero tells us that the measurement was made accurate to that last digit, which just happened to have a value of zero)

1006 has four significant digits (the 1 and 6 are interesting, and we have to count the zeroes, because they're between the two interesting numbers)

560 has two significant digits (the last zero is just a placeholder)

560. (notice the "point" after the zero) has three significant digits (the decimal point tells us that the measurement was made to the nearest unit, so the zero is not just a placeholder)

560.0 has four significant digits (the zero in the tenths place means that the measurement was made accurate to the tenths place, and that there just happen to be zero tenths; the 5 and 6 give useful information, and the other zero is between significant digits, and must therefore also be counted)

Sep 3rd, 2014

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