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Rounding Numbers!!!!

When you have to round a number, you are usually told how to round it. It's simplest
when you're told how many "places" to round to, but you should also know how to
round to a named "place", such as "to the nearest thousand" or "to the ten-thousandths
place". You may also need to know how to round to a certain number of significant
digits; we'll get to that later.

In general, you round to a given place by looking at the digit one place to the right of
the "target" place. If the digit is a five or greater, you round the target digit up by one.
Otherwise, you leave the target as it is. Then you replace any digits to the right with
zeroes (if they are to the left of the decimal point) or else you delete the digits (if they
are past the decimal point).

I'll use the first few digits of the decimal expansion of pi: 3.14159265... in the
examples below.

Round pi to five places.

"To five places" means "to five decimal places". First, I count out the five
decimal places, and then I look at the sixth place:

3.14159 | 265...
I've drawn a little line separating the fifth place from the sixth place. This can be a
handy way of "keeping your place", especially if you are dealing with lots of digits.

The fifth place has a 9 in it. Looking at the sixth place, I see that it has a 2 in it.
Since 2 is less than five, I won't round the 9 up; that is, I'll leave the 9 as it is.
In addition, I will delete the digits after the 9. Then pi, rounded to five places,


Round pi to four places.

First, I go back to the original number (not the one I just rounded in the
previous example). I count off four places, and look at the number in the fifth

3.1415 | 9265...

The number in the fifth place is a 9, which is greater than 5, so I'll round up in
the fourth place, truncating the expansion at four decimal places. That is, the 5
becomes a 6, the 9265... part disappears, and pi, rounded to four decimal
places, is:

Round pi to three places.

First, I go back to the original number (not the one I just rounded in the
previous example). I count off three decimal places, and look at the digit in the
fourth place:

3.141 | 59265...

The number in the fourth place is a 5, which is the cut-off for rounding: if the
number in the next place (after the one you're rounding to) is 5 or greater, you
round up. In this case, the 1 becomes a 2, the 59265... part disappears, and
pi, rounded to three decimal places, is:

This rounding works the same way when they tell you to round to a certain named
place, such as "the hundredths place". The only difference is that you have to be a bit
more careful in counting off the places you need. Just remember that the decimal
places count off to the right in the same order as the counting numbers count off to the
left. That is, for regular numbers, you have the place values:

...(ten-thousands) (thousands) (hundreds) (tens) (ones)

For decimal places, you don't have a "oneths", but you do have the other fractions:

(decimal point) (tenths) (hundredths) (thousandths) (ten-thousandths)...

For instance: Copyright © Elizabeth Stapel 2006-2008 All Rights Reserved

Round pi to the nearest thousandth.

"The nearest thousandth" means that I need to count off three decimal places
(tenths, hundredths, thousandths), and then round:

3.141 | 59265...

Then pi, rounded to the nearest thousandth, is 3.142.

Round 2.796 to the hundredths place.

The hundredths place is two decimal places, so I'll count off two decimal places,
and round according to the third decimal place:

2.79 | 6

Since the third decimal place contains a 6, which is greater than 5, I have to
round up. But rounding up a 9 gives a 10. In this case, I round the 79 up to an

You might be tempted to write this as "2.8", but, since you rounded to the hundredths
place (to two decimal places), you should write both decimal places. Otherwise, it looks
like you rounded to one decimal place, or to the tenths place, and your answer could be
counted off as being incorrect.



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