Sig Figs, Sig Digs, Devil’s contribution to math and science — whatever you need to call them, they are probably the most hated and commonly confused ideas in science and math. Ignore them at your own peril, since those half factors off will add up and turn your A’s into B’s, or your B’s into C’s when you’re not careful. The thing is, sig figs really are NOT THAT HARD to master, and when you know these 5 concepts, then you’ll have a leg up on everybody 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, however 303 has three sig figs because the middle 0 turns into significant

If trailing zeros come after a decimal point, then they are significant

1.000 (4 sig figs) is a more exact measurement than 1.zero (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 4 sig figs because of the decimal point

Leading zeros are NEVER significant

0.0003 has one sig fig, however 0.3003 has 4 sig figs since the 0’s are sandwiched

2. How To Multiply and Divide With Sig Figs

Plug in each number exactly as it seems in the problem

Look on the number of sig figs in every number

Round your answer so it contains the least number of sig figs out of all of the numbers being multiplied or divided

ex: 325.zero (four sig figs) / 2.0 (two sig figs) = 162.5, but the answer should only have two sig figs, so that you’d spherical it to 160 ( sig figs; 0 is just not a sig fig) as your reply

3. What About Multiplying With Unit Conversions?

The numbers you use for unit conversions do not depend as sig figs

ex: if you want to convert 38.5 grams into kilograms, your answer would have 3 sig figs still, even for those who 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 answer ought to comprise the least number of decimal places

ex: 4.32 + 5.1 should have one decimal level, so you discover the precise answer (9.42) and spherical it to a solution with one decimal level (9.four)

5. How To Measure Volumes With Sig Figs

There will typically be a curve, or meniscus, in the top of a liquid — always measure the underside of the meniscus

If you find yourself measuring the quantity of something in a beaker or graduated cylinder, look at every tick mark, then go one decimal point additional when recording your calculation

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