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What is the role of significant figures in accuracy and precision?

In our daily life, we go through hundreds of figures while we calculate the values.

Suppose you are having 5 figures and all of them are different from each other after the decimal point.

You have to choose the precise value that is most accurate for the calculation and can make your answers perfect.

Although, the values after decimal don’t play such a role in the calculation, when we need a precise result, then significant figures are quite important.

You can have two types of values. In the first scenario, go to the shop and buy 1 dozen eggs. That is quite simple.

But when you are buying sugar, its weight can be insignificant figures like 2.35 kg. The values after the decimal are telling the quantity of product after the exact number.

This whole situation is very interesting and we will discuss it in detail here. But before this, readers need to have some idea about significant figures.

After that, we will dive deep and talk about its importance. So, let’s begin!

What are significant figures?

The values generated to tell the most accurate results are called significant figures. It is calculated to find the most precise terms.

When you are using exact amounts like 103 or 45, these values don’t have decimal in them. So, these are non-significant and most accurate values.

But when it comes to the decimal values, the first method we use to get our answers is using significant figures.

It helps to round the generated figures and put an estimated value in our equations that are most accurate and precise.

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Let’s take an example where the teacher asked the students to measure a table and everyone has a different figure.

The values provided by these students are 12.5, 12.3, 12.9, and 12.4. The value 12.9 is the least accurate so it can’t be considered in the results.

The remaining three values are almost equal to each other, so you can put the most precise value from them, which is 12.4.

This value is in between the other two figures, so we can count it as the precise digit.

Role of significant figures in accuracy and precision

Again, we talk about the above example where we had to select the best figure among the provided values.

Significant figures talk about the precision of measuring gadgets that how much accurate result it is providing to the users.

While we get the values after calculation, there are chances that the answers we get contain a decimal points in them.

To make the digits accurate and use the most precise value, we can round these significant figures.

So, these figures can help to provide an exact equation that can end the confusion and make the digits most accurate.

The value with a large number of significant figures has more chances to get a precise result and the chances of errors get low in these digits.

How can we find significant figures?

Finding the most precise result using significant figures is quite simple. You can find it manually by calculating the values.

But if you are going to calculate some bigger digits, there is an option to use a calculator that can get you the results quite easily.

For it, you can take help from online tools like sig fig calculator that can provide the precise figure after rounding the values.

Before going into details, we will talk about the rules that are important for the users to know about significant figures.

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 Rules for finding significant figures

To get the precise value and make the results more accurate, some rules should be followed first.

These rules are:

  • All non-zero digits will be counted significant.

That means if you have the values having digits 1 to 9, then we can count the figure as significant.

Let’s take an example here. We have a value of 484.38 which has a total of 5 digits in it and all of them are non-zero digits.

So, all the values (4,8,4,3,8) are significant figures.

Now we talk about a new digit i.e., 90 that doesn’t have decimal in it, you have only one significant figure that is 9. The other digit is zero that is content non-significant.

  • Zero between the digits will be counted as significant figures

If you have a long value that has zero digits in between, then that zero digits will be counted as a significant value. We will explain it with an example.

You have received a parcel weighing 1509. Here all the figures are significant as everyone has their role here. We get 4 significant digits in the value that are (1,5,0,9).

  • Starting zero digits are non-significant

The zero digits that are coming at the start of a value will be non-significant. If we talk about the example of this figure that is 0.693

Here the values coming before non-zero digits are all non-significant. Here the significant digits significant are (6,9,3).

  • Ending zeros with a decimal point are significant

Sometimes, you have a value that contains the figures with a non-zero digit that is coming in the end. That value will be counted as significant.

Here we talk about a value 0.045300 where all the zero digits coming after 3 are significant. Here (4,5,3,0,0) are significant values.

Methods for finding significant figures

In the above section, we talked about the rules that one must follow before finding a significant figure. Now the last thing users should know, are the methods.

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Here we will tell you two important methods by which significant figures could find out.

Using the addition and subtraction method

It is the first method that can help you to get the significant figure of a value.

  • Take the digits that are coming after the decimal.
  • Now simply add or subtract the provided values here.
  • In the final answer, you will have the significant values on the right side of the decimal portion.

Using multiplication and division method

The second method for getting the significant figure from provided values is using the multiplication and subtraction method.

  • Check the values that are coming before or after the decimal.
  • Multiply/divide all the digits and write it in the form of 10 x 103.

These are two methods that one can use to find out significant figures. But if you are finding it hard to perform the task manually, the online tools can help you there.

Check the best tools like the sig fig counter that can easily make the working fast and provide you precise figures.

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Final words

To get precise results while calculations, it is necessary to find the significant figures of a value. These play an important role to take out exact figures.

You have to follow some steps that are basic protocols for finding a significant figure. Applying these rules and methods, you can have a precise value.

Also, you can take help from online calculators that make the working easy and provide you the significant figures in entire value.

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