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Accurate Digits: Your Guide to Significant Figures

significant figures

The zeros that follow the decimal point are significant when a value ends in a zero (0.20 mm has 2, 60.00 mm has 4).

(e) A zero (or zeros) before the decimal point after a number may or may not have significance. To indicate which numbers are significant, use overbars or scientific notation (5000 = 5.0 × 103 hectares has 2). Bloggings hub Contact Us

Certain Numbers are Precise

They possess an endless quantity of noteworthy Significant digits tool.

(a) An hour consists of sixty minutes (sixty has an infinite number of significant figures).

(b) Seven leaves (each with an unlimited number of significant figures) adorn the plant. 

Round the result when adding or subtracting so that the least significant digit (5.4 + 4.98 + 6.9111 + 7 = 24) corresponds to the least significant figure in the data.

  1. Round the result to have the fewest significant digits possible when multiplying or dividing (8 × 542 × 40 = 200, 000 = 2 × 105).

Accuracy and Precision of a Measurement

Measurements, or observation and experimentation, are the foundation of science. The degree to which a measurement resembles its accurate value is known as accuracy. Let’s take an example where you are measuring the length of a typical piece of computer paper. The paper is 11.0 inches long, according to the box you bought it in. After taking three measurements of the paper’s length, you get the following results: 11.1 in., 11.2 in., and 10.9 in. Because these dimensions are so near to the true value of 11.0 inches, they are considered to be highly precise. On the other hand, your measurement would not be particularly accurate if you had measured 12 inches.

Measurement Precision and Important Figures

A key component of measurement accuracy and precision is measurement tool precision. Generally speaking, a precise measuring tool measures values in extremely small increments. For instance, a standard ruler measures length to the nearest millimeter, but a caliper measures length to the nearest 0.01 millimeter. The caliper is a more precise measuring tool because it measures incredibly small differences in length. The more precise the measuring tool, the more accurate and precise the measurements can be. When we express measured values, we can only list the number of digits that we initially measured with our measuring tool. For instance, if you measure a stick’s length with a standard ruler, the result might be 36.7 cm.

Your measuring device was not accurate enough to measure to the nearest tenth of a centimeter, thus you were unable to write this value as 36.71 cm. It should be mentioned that the individual taking the measurement has estimated the final digit in the measured result. For instance, when measuring a stick’s length with a ruler, the individual observes that the stick’s length appears to be between 36.6 and 36.7 cm; hence, the value of the last digit must be estimated


The last recorded digit in a measurement is the first one with some degree of uncertainty when using the significant figures approach. Start with the initial measured value on the left, count the number of digits through the last digit printed on the right, and you will have the number of significant digits in the value. For instance, there are three digits, or significant figures, in the measured measurement of 36.7cm. Significant figures show how accurately a measurement instrument was used to capture a given value.


When counting significant figures, zeros are given extra attention. Since the zeros in 0.053 are merely place keepers that indicate where the decimal point is, they have no significance. In 0.053, there are two noteworthy figures. 10.053 has five important digits; the zeros are not place keepers, but they are nonetheless significant. Depending on how the final result can only have as many significant figures as the least accurate number when multiplying or dividing measured data.


The solution that results from adding or subtracting measured values cannot have more decimal places than the least exact number. Numbers are written the zeros in 1300 might or might not matter. They could be peacekeepers, or they could indicate that the number is known down to the last digit. Thus, there could be two, three, or four important figures in 1300. (Use scientific notation when writing 1300 to prevent this issue.) Zeros are important unless they are only placeholders.


The degree to which a measurement resembles the true value is referred to as its accuracy. An estimate of how much the measurement result may deviate from this value is called measurement uncertainty. The degree of agreement between many measurements is known as the precision of measured values. The size of a measuring tool’s measurement increments determines how precise it is. The tool’s precision increases with decreasing measurement increments. Significant numbers convey a measurement tool’s accuracy.

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