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What is the Purpose of Using Significant Figures in Calculations?

Aug 24, 2021


Significant Figures are an intrinsic part of mathematical and statistical calculations. If you are dealing with calculations that are deeply influenced by the accuracy and precision of measurements, then you can’t leave the Significant Figures out of the discussion.

Students often get confused when it comes to the significance, purpose, and applications of Significant Figures. Whether you are a science major, or you have taken up a science or mathematics subject as an optional course, you’d come across this term at some point during that time.

So, the need for learning about Significant figures becomes of utmost importance.

In this article, we are going to introduce you to the concept of Significant Figures and more importantly, what is the purpose of using them in different calculations.

What are Significant Figures?

Significant Figures in a value represent the meaningful numbers in that value. These Meaningful or Important numbers are the ones that have a massive impact on the overall value.

You can’t leave significant figures out of the equation, no matter what scientific calculation you talk about.

These are the numbers that matter and that can convey the message that a value is supped to convey.

What is the Purpose of Significant Figures in Calculations?

Significant Digits have numerous applications. Whenever the precision and accuracy of measurement are concerned, the Significant Figures become of extreme importance for that.

Here are some of the most basic yet prominent purposes of Significant Figures that you need to know.

  • Determining Precision of Measurements

Significant Figures are used to determine the precision of a number. When you identify the Significant Numbers in a value, those numbers will give you the same result as the original value, especially when the conditions are kept the same. 

And since precision is important for advanced calculations, the role of Significant Figures automatically becomes important.

  • Determining Accuracy of Measurements

Significant Digits help you identify the accuracy of a measurement. Accuracy tells you how close a number is as compared to its original value.

You can use either the original or the Accurate value as the primary measurement and you’d get error-free results in both cases. 

  • Rounding Different Values

When we round different numbers, we do that based on significant figures.

You select the significant number, and you base the rest of the rounding process on that. In other words, the entire rounding process is based on the identification of Significant Numbers.

  • Scientific Notations

When we are writing numbers in scientific notation, we do that based on Scientific Figures. The way this works is, you identify the Significant Figures in a value, and you use them to write the number in its Scientific Notation.

So, whenever the Scientific Notation of a Value is concerned, Significant Figures identification becomes a must.

  • Significant Figures in Physics

Measurements are an essential part of most physical calculations. Whether it is about basic physics operations or some of the most advanced ones, you can’t do them without finding the Significant Figures first.

The precision and accuracy of physical measurements and quantities rely heavily on finding Significant Figures. 

  • Significant Figures in Chemistry

Calculations in Chemistry are about the resolution of different measurements. And for the resolution of measurements, the significant or the meaningful digits play an important part.

The Significant Figures help deal with the ambiguous side of the calculations. When you use Significant Figures, it enables you to use accurate and precise values that help you do different kinds of calculations, without worrying about errors or inaccuracy in them.

These are just some of the cases where Significant Figures prove to be of great importance.

Now that you know how important the Significant Figures are, let’s talk about how you can calculate them for doing different calculations.

Sig Fig Calculator – Fast & Accurate Online Significant Figures Calculator

If you want to find Significant Figures, there are certain rules defined by mathematics that you need to memorize. You can use the rules for Significant Figures to find Significant Figures in any given value.

 But learning the rules for Significant figures is not the only way to find them.

There is an even better way that you can use to identify the significant figures. And that is, by using the Sig Fig Calculator.

The Sig Fig calculator is a free online calculator that helps you identify the meaningful digits in a value. With the help of this calculator, you can identify the total number of Sig Figs in a value and also find their Scientific Notation to learn the numbers that are significant in the given value.

How to Use the Sig Fig Calculator

The sig fig calculator is simple to use. This tool features a fun and interactive user interface which makes it easy to use for students and teachers alike.

To use this Sig Fig calculator, you need to add a number in the input box. After that, you can select a Round Value, using the Scroll Bar.

The round value can be anything between 0 and 10. If you don’t select a value, it would be set to 0 by default. Once you have entered the number and set the round value, you can click on the Calculate button.

Once you hit the calculate button, this is when the magic happens. The calculator gives you the exact number of Significant Figures, Decimal Digits, and the Scientific and E-Notations for your input number.

This is all that you need to do, to find Significant Numbers using the Sig Fig calculator. There is no need for recalling the rules for Significant Figures, whatsoever. 

Final Words

Finding the Significant Figures can bring a remarkable level of accuracy and precision to your mathematical and statistical calculations. The role of significant figures is quite crucial for that.

But the good news is, it is quite easy to find Significant Figures in a value. You can go over the rules for finding Significant Figures that we have talked about in this article. If you are looking for an even easier way, you can use the Sig Fig calculator to find Significant Figures in a value.