How to Calculate Significant Figures

By Chris Sherwood

When it comes to measurements in the physical sciences, determining significant figures is a crucial skill. From converting measurements, to really any type of equation used in science, using significant figures is the required method in giving an estimated answer. Read on to learn how to calculate significant figures.

Determine if the number is a non-zero digit. All non-zero digits are considered significant. For example if you had the number 245,973 all six of these numbers would be considered significant.

If the number is a zero, determine if it is between two non-zero digits. If a zero is between to non-zero digits, then it is considered significant. For example if you had the number 202,131 the zero in this number would be significant.

If the number is a zero, determine if it is in a number without a decimal point. If the zero is in a number without a decimal point, then it is considered to be significant. For example in the number 20053 both zeros are significant.

Look to the left of your zero in a number. Though it can be debatable in some circumstances and applications, in most cases, if there is a non-zero digit to the left of your zero, then that zero can be considered significant.