Top 5 Most Confusing Things About Sig Figs (Significant Figures)

Top 5 Most Confusing Things About Sig Figs (Significant Figures)

Sig Figs, Sig Digs, Satan’s contribution to math and science — whatever you need to call them, they are one of the most hated and commonly confused ideas in science and math. Ignore them at your own peril, since these half points off will add up and turn your A’s into B’s, or your B’s into C’s if you’re not careful. The thing is, sig figs really are NOT THAT HARD to master, and when you know these 5 concepts, you then’ll have a leg up on everyone else who still can’t figure out the ins and outs of sig figs.

1. How To Deal With Zeros
Sandwiched zeros are significant
300 has one sig fig, but 303 has three sig figs because the center 0 becomes significant
If trailing zeros come after a decimal level, then they are significant
1.000 (four sig figs) is a more exact measurement than 1.0 (2 sig figs)
If trailing zeros come after a number without a decimal level, then they are NOT significant
5,000 has 1 sig fig, however 5,000. has four sig figs because of the decimal level
Leading zeros are NEVER significant
0.0003 has one sig fig, however 0.3003 has four sig figs for the reason that 0’s are sandwiched

2. How To Multiply and Divide With Sig Figs
Plug in each number precisely as it seems in the problem
Look on the number of sig figs in each number
Round your reply so it contains the least number of sig figs out of all the numbers being multiplied or divided
ex: (4 sig figs) / (two sig figs) = 162.5, however the answer should only have sig figs, so that you’d round it to 160 (two sig figs; 0 is just not a sig fig) as your reply

3. What About Multiplying With Unit Conversions?
The numbers you utilize for unit conversions don't rely as sig figs
ex: if you wish to convert 38.5 grams into kilograms, your reply would have three sig figs still, even should you use the conversion 1kg/1,000g

4. Adding and Subtracting With Sig Figs
Sig Figs DO NOT MATTER when adding and subtracting numbers
Instead, your reply ought to comprise the least number of decimal places
ex: 4.32 + 5.1 ought to have one decimal point, so you discover the precise reply (9.forty two) and spherical it to an answer with one decimal point (9.4)

5. How To Measure Volumes With Sig Figs
There will typically be a curve, or meniscus, within the top of a liquid — always measure the bottom of the meniscus
When you find yourself measuring the volume of something in a beaker or graduated cylinder, look at each tick mark, then go one decimal level additional when recording your calculation

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