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Significant Figures Honors Coordinated Science II

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What are they? The number of significant figures in a result is simply the number of figures that are known with some degree of reliability. The number 13.2 is said to have 3 significant figures. The number 13.20 is said to have 4 significant figures.

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Rules for Deciding the # of Sig Figs All nonzero digits are significant: 1.234 g has 4 significant figures, Zeroes between nonzero digits are significant: 1002 kg has 4 significant figure Leading zeros to the left of the first nonzero digits are not significant; such zeroes merely indicate the position of the decimal point: 0.012 g has 2 significant figures

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Rules for Deciding the # of Sig Figs Trailing zeroes that are also to the right of a decimal point in a number are significant: 0.0230 mL has 3 significant figures When a number ends in zeroes that are not to the right of a decimal point, the zeroes are not necessarily significant: 50,600 calories may be 3, 4, or 5 significant figures Avoid ambiguity by writing in scientific notation: 5.06 × 104 calories (3 significant figures) 5.060 × 104 calories (4 significant figures), or 5.0600 × 104 calories (5 significant figures).

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Use in Mathematical Operations In carrying out calculations, the general rule is that the accuracy of a calculated result is limited by the least accurate measurement involved in the calculation. Least accurate = least sig figs.

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Example Problems 100 + 23.643 = 123.643 Should be rounded to 124 100 has has the last sig figs (3), so the answer also must have 3 sig figs. 3.0 × 12.60 = 37.8000 Should be rounded to 38 3.0 has 2 sig figs, so the answer must also be rounded to 2 sig figs.

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