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 factors 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 if you happen to know these 5 ideas, 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 middle zero becomes significant

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

1.000 (4 sig figs) is a more exact measurement than 1.0 (2 sig figs)

If trailing zeros come after a number without a decimal point, then they’re NOT significant

5,000 has 1 sig fig, but 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 zero’s are sandwiched

2. How To Multiply and Divide With Sig Figs

Plug in each number precisely as it appears within 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 the numbers being multiplied or divided

ex: 325.zero (four sig figs) / 2.zero ( sig figs) = 162.5, however the reply should only have sig figs, so you’d round it to 160 (two sig figs; zero shouldn’t be a sig fig) as your answer

3. What About Multiplying With Unit Conversions?

The numbers you employ for unit conversions don’t count as sig figs

ex: if you wish to convert 38.5 grams into kilograms, your answer would have 3 sig figs still, even if you happen to 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 include the least number of decimal places

ex: 4.32 + 5.1 ought to have one decimal point, so you discover the exact reply (9.forty two) and spherical it to an answer with one decimal point (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 bottom of the meniscus

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

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