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3.1 Measurements and Their Uncertainty 3.

Connecting to Your World
On January 4, 2004, the Mars Guide for Reading
Exploration Rover Spirit landed on Mars. Equipped with five scientific
Key Concepts
instruments and a rock abrasion tool (shown at left), Spirit was sent to
• How do measurements relate 3.1.1 Convert measurements to sci-
examine the Martian surface around Gusev Crater, to science?
a wide basin that may have once held a lake. • How do you evaluate accuracy
entific notation.
Each day of its mission, Spirit recorded and precision? 3.1.2 Distinguish among accuracy,
• Why must measurements be
measurements for analysis. This data helped reported to the correct number precision, and error of a mea-
scientists learn about the geology and of significant figures? surement.
climate on Mars. All measurements • How does the precision of a
calculated answer compare 3.1.3 Determine the number of sig-
have some uncertainty. In the chemistry to the precision of the
laboratory, you must strive for accuracy and
nificant figures in a measure-
measurements used to
precision in your measurements. obtain it? ment and in a calculated
Vocabulary answer.
scientific notation
Using and Expressing Measurements accuracy
Guide for Reading
Your height (67 inches), your weight (134 pounds), and the speed you drive on precision
the highway (65 miles/hour) are some familiar examples of measurements. A accepted value Build Vocabulary L2
measurement is a quantity that has both a number and a unit. Everyone experimental value
makes and uses measurements. For instance, you decide how to dress in the error
Paraphrase Have students write defi-
morning based on the temperature outside. If you were baking cookies, you percent error nitions of the words accurate and pre-
would measure the volumes of the ingredients as indicated in the recipe. significant figures cise in their own words. As they read
Such everyday situations are similar to those faced by scientists. Reading Strategy the text, have students compare the
Measurements are fundamental to the experimental sciences. For that Building Vocabulary As you definitions with those of accuracy and
reason, it is important to be able to make measurements and to decide read, write a definition of each key
term in your own words. precision given in the text.
whether a measurement is correct. The units typically used in the sciences
are those of the International System of Measurements (SI). L2
Reading Strategy
In chemistry, you will often encounter very large or very small num-
bers. A single gram of hydrogen, for example, contains approximately Use Prior Knowledge Ask, What
602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 hydrogen atoms. The mass of an atom of everyday activities involve measur-
gold is 0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 327 gram. Writing and using such ing? (Examples include buying con-
200,000,000,000.  2  1011
large and small numbers is very cumbersome. You can work more easily
Decimal Exponent is 11
sumer products, doing sports activities,
with these numbers by writing them in scientific, or exponential, notation.
In scientific notation, a given number is written as the product of
moves and cooking.) Ask students to recall
11 places
two numbers: a coefficient and 10 raised to a power. For example, the to the left. which units of measure are related to
number 602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 written in scientific notation is each of the examples they give. Have
6.02  1023. The coefficient in this number is 6.02. In scientific notation, the some students estimate their height in
coefficient is always a number equal to or greater than one and less than inches. Have other students measure
ten. The power of 10, or exponent, in this example is 23. Figure 3.1 illus-
the same students with a yardstick or
trates how to express the number of stars in a galaxy by using scientific
notation. For more practice on writing numbers in scientific notation, refer tape measure. Compare the estimates
to page R56 of Appendix C. with measured values. Ask, What do
you think your height is in centime-
Figure 3.1 Expressing very large numbers, such as the estimated ters? (Acceptable answers range from
number of stars in a galaxy, is easier if scientific notation is used. 130 to 200 centimeters.)
Section 3.1 Measurements and Their Uncertainty 63

Section Resources
Print Technology Have students study the photograph and
• Guided Reading and Study Workbook, • Interactive Textbook with ChemASAP, read the text that opens the section. Ask,
Section 3.1 Animation 2, Problem-Solving 3.2, 3.3, 3.6, How do you think scientists ensure
• Core Teaching Resources, Section 3.1 3.8, Assessment 3.1 measurements are accurate and pre-
Review cise? (Acceptable answers include that sci-
• Transparencies, T20–T26 entists make multiple measurements by
using the most precise equipment avail-
able. They use samples with known values
to check the reliability of the equipment.)

Scientific Measurement 63
Figure 3.2 The distribution of
Section 3.1 (continued) darts illustrates the difference
between accuracy and precision.
a Good accuracy and good
Using and Expressing precision: The darts are close to
the bull’s-eye and to one
Measurements another. b Poor accuracy and
Use Visuals L1 good precision: The darts are far
from the bull’s-eye but close to
Figure 3.1 Have students study the one another. c Poor accuracy
photograph and read the text that and poor precision: The darts are
far from the bull’s-eye and from a b c
opens the section. Ask, How is the one another.
exponent of a number expressed in Good accuracy Poor accuracy Poor accuracy
Good precision Good precision Poor precision
scientific notation related to the
number of places the decimal point
is moved to the left in a number
larger than 1? (They are equal.) Accuracy, Precision, and Error
Your success in the chemistry lab and in many of your daily activities
depends on your ability to make reliable measurements. Ideally, measure-
Accuracy, Precision, ments should be both correct and reproducible.
and Error Accuracy and Precision Correctness and reproducibility relate to the
concepts of accuracy and precision, two words that mean the same thing to
many people. In chemistry, however, their meanings are quite different.
CLASS Activity Accuracy is a measure of how close a measurement comes to the actual or
true value of whatever is measured. Precision is a measure of how close a
series of measurements are to one another. To evaluate the accuracy
Precision and Accuracy L2
of a measurement, the measured value must be compared to the correct
Purpose To illustrate the concepts of value. To evaluate the precision of a measurement, you must compare
precision and accuracy the values of two or more repeated measurements.
Materials a small object (such as a lead Darts on a dartboard illustrate accuracy and precision in measure-
fishing weight), triple-beam balance ment. Let the bull’s-eye of the dartboard represent the true, or correct,
value of what you are measuring. The closeness of a dart to the bull’s-eye
Procedure Place the object and a
corresponds to the degree of accuracy. The closer it comes to the bull’s-
triple-beam balance in a designated eye, the more accurately the dart was thrown. The closeness of several
area. Set a deadline by which each stu- darts to one another corresponds to the degree of precision. The closer
dent will have measured the mass of together the darts are, the greater the precision and the reproducibility.
the object. After everyone has had an Look at Figure 3.2 as you consider the following outcomes.
opportunity, have students compile a a. All of the darts land close to the bull’s-eye and to one another. Closeness
to the bull’s-eye means that the degree of accuracy is great. Each dart in
summary of all the measurements.
the bull’s-eye corresponds to an accurate measurement of a value.
Illustrate precision by having the stu- Closeness of the darts to one another indicates high precision.
dents find the average and compare b. All of the darts land close to one another but far from the bull’s-eye. The
their measurement to it. precision is high because of the closeness of grouping and thus the high
Expected Outcome Measured values level of reproducibility. The results are inaccurate, however, because of
the distance of the darts from the bull’s-eye.
should be similar, but not necessarily c. The darts land far from one another and from the bull’s-eye. The results
identical for all students. are both inaccurate and imprecise.

FYI Checkpoint How does accuracy differ from precision?

Other analogies that may be useful in
explaining precision vs. accuracy:
• casting a fishing line
• pitching horseshoes 64 Chapter 3
• a precision marching band

Facts and Figures

Striving for Scientific Accuracy
The French chemist, Antoine Lavoisier, escaping. He weighed the water and the
worked hard to establish the importance of flask separately before and after boiling. He
accurate measurement in scientific inquiry. found that the mass of the water had not
Lavoisier devised an experiment to test the changed. The flask, however, lost a small
Greek scientists’ idea that when water was mass equal to the sediment he found in the
heated, it could turn into earth. For 100 days, bottom of it. Lavosier proved that the sedi-
Lavoisier boiled water in a glass flask con- ment was not earth, but part of the flask
structed to allow steam to condense without etched away by the boiling water.

64 Chapter 3
Determining Error Note that an individual measurement may be accu-
Word Origins L2
rate or inaccurate. Suppose you use a thermometer to measure the boiling
Word Origins
Percent comes from the
The phrase per annum means “by
point of pure water at standard pressure. The thermometer reads 99.1°C.
Latin words per, meaning the year.”
You probably know that the true or accepted value of the boiling point of
pure water under these conditions is actually 100.0°C. There is a difference “by” or “through,” and
between the accepted value, which is the correct value based on reliable centum, meaning “100.”
What do you think the Use Visuals L1
references, and the experimental value, the value measured in the lab. The
difference between the accepted value and the experimental value is called phrase per annum Figure 3.2 Have students inspect Fig-
the error. ure 3.2. Ask, If one of the darts in Figure
Error  experimental value  accepted value 3.2c were closer to the bull’s-eye, what
would happen to the accuracy? (The
Error can be positive or negative depending on whether the experimental accuracy would increase.) What would
value is greater than or less than the accepted value.
For the boiling-point measurement, the error is 99.1°C  100.0°C, or
happen to the precision? (The precision
0.9° C. The magnitude of the error shows the amount by which the exper- would increase.) What is the operational
imental value differs from the accepted value. Often, it is useful to calculate definition of error implied by this fig-
the relative error, or percent error. The percent error is the absolute value of ure? (The error is the distance between the
the error divided by the accepted value, multiplied by 100%. dart and the bull’s-eye.)
0error 0 L2
Percent error 
accepted value
 100% Discuss
Review the concept of absolute value.
Using the absolute value of the error means that the percent error will
Ask, What is the meaning of a posi-
always be a positive value. For the boiling-point measurement, the percent
error is calculated as follows.
tive error? (Measured value is greater
than accepted value.) What is the
099.1C - 100.0C 0 meaning of a negative error? (Mea-
Percent error   100%
100.0C sured value is less than accepted value.)
 0.9C  100%
100.0C Explain that the absolute value of the
error is a positive value that describes
 0.009  100%
the difference between the measured
 0.9% value and the accepted value, but not
Just because a measuring device works doesn’t necessarily mean that it which is greater.
is accurate. As Figure 3.3 shows, a weighing scale that does not read zero
when nothing is on it is bound to yield error. In order to weigh yourself
accurately, you must first make sure that the scale is zeroed.

Figure 3.3 The scale below has

not been properly zeroed, so the
reading obtained for the person’s
weight is inaccurate. There is a
difference between the person’s
correct weight and the measured
value. Calculating What is the
percent error of a measured
value of 114 lb if the person’s
actual weight is 107 lb?

Section 3.1 Measurements and Their Uncertainty 65

Answers to...
Figure 3.3 7%

Checkpoint Accuracy is
determined by comparing a mea-
sured value to the correct value. Pre-
cision is determined by comparing
the values of two or more repeated

Scientific Measurement 65
Section 3.1 (continued) Significant
in Measurements
in Measurements
often provide often
like the
in Figure
the one3.4. in Figure
Customers3.4. Customers
use use
Significant Figures in these scalesthese
to measure
scales tothe measure
weightthe of produce
weight ofthatproduce
is pricedthatper
is priced
pound.per If pound. If
you use a scale
you use thataisscale
that is in
0.1-lb intervals,
in 0.1-lbyouintervals,
can easily
you read
can easily
the read the
Measurements scale to thescale
nearestto thetenth
of a pound.
tenth ofWith
a pound.
such With
a scale,
a scale,youhowever,
can you can
also estimate
weight theto the
to the
nearest hundredth
of a poundof byanoting
poundthe by noting the
Discuss L2
position ofposition
the pointer of the
between calibration
marks. marks.
Point out that the concept of signifi- Suppose you Suppose
estimate youa estimate
weight that a weight
lies between
that lies2.4between
lb and 2.52.4 lb
lb to
andbe2.5 lb to be
cant figures applies only to measured 2.46 lb. The2.46
lb. The innumber
this estimated
in this estimated
measurement measurement
has three digits.
has threeThedigits. The
first two digits
first in
two thedigits
in the measurement
(2 and 4) are (2 known
and 4) are with known
withBut certainty. But
quantities. If students ask why an esti-
the rightmost
the digit
rightmost(6) has digit
been (6)estimated
has been and estimated
involves and some
some uncertainty.
mated digit is considered significant, These threeThese
all convey
digits useful
all convey
useful information,
however, and however,
are and are
tell them a significant figure is one that called significant
called significant
figures. The figures. The significant
significant figures in afigures
in a measurement
include include
is known to be reasonably reliable. A all of the digits
all ofthat
the are
that areplus
a last digit
plus athat
that is estimated.
Mea- Mea-
careful estimate fits this definition. surements surements
must always must
be reported
always betoreported
the correctto the
correct of number
significant of significant
fig- fig-
ures becauseurescalculated
because answers
calculated often
depend often
the number on the ofnumber
significant of significant
FYI figures in the
values inused
the values
in theused
in the calculation.
Instruments Instruments
differ in the differ
in theofnumber
of significant
figures that figures
can be that can be
When calibration marks on an instru- obtained from
their from
use andtheirthus
in the ofprecision
of measurements.
The The
ment are spaced very close together three meterthree
sticks meter
in Figure
in can
be used
3.5 can
to be
to make successively
more pre- more pre-
(e.g., on certain thermometers and cise measurements
cise measurements
of the board. of the board.
graduated cylinders), it is sometimes
more practical to estimate a measure- Figure 3.4 Figure
The precision
3.4 The ofprecision
a of a
weighing scale
dependsscaleondepends on
ment to the nearest half of the smallest how finely ithow
is calibrated.
finely it is calibrated.
calibrated increment, rather than to Rules forRules
for determining
whether whether
a digit inaadigit
in a measured
the nearest tenth. value is value
is significant:
1 Every nonzero
1 Everydigit
in a reported
digit in measurement
a reported measurement
is assumed istoassumed
be to be
CLASS Activity significant. The
The measurements
24.7 meters,24.7
and 714
and 714 meters
each express each
a measure
expressofa measure
length toofthree
to threefigures.
significant figures.

Olympic Times L2 2 Zeros appearing

2 Zerosbetween
are significant.
digits areThe
measure-The measure-
Purpose To illustrate how similar ments 7003ments
1.503 meters
and 1.503
have four
each have four
measurements fom different eras significant figures.
significant figures.
may vary in precision Animation Animation
2 See 2 See 3 Leftmost3zeros
front of nonzero
in front digits
of nonzero
are not
are not significant.
Materials Almanacs or Internet access how the accuracy
how theof aaccuracy of a They act as placeholders.
They act as placeholders.
The measurements
The measurements
0.0071 meter,0.0071
0.42 meter,
meter, 0.42 meter,
calculated result
dependsresult depends
Procedure Have students look up the on the sensitivity
on theofsensitivity
the of the and 0.000 099andmeter
099 meter
have only
only twofigures.
The figures.
zeros The zeros
measuring instruments.
measuring instruments. to the left are
to not
the left
are not By
writing theBy writing
the measurements
in scien- in scien-
winning times for the men’s and
tific notation,
can eliminate
you cansuch
such placeholding
zeros: in thiszeros:
case,in this case,
women’s 100-meter dashes at the 1948 with ChemASAP
with ChemASAP
7.1  103 meter, 4.23meter,
7.1  10 101 meter,
4.2  10
9.9  10
meter, 5
and 9.9  105 meter.
and 2000 Olympic Games. Then have
them answer the following question. 4 Zeros at the
4 Zeros
end of
end ofand
a number
to the right
and to
of the
a decimal
right ofpoint
a decimal
are point are
Why do the more recently recorded always significant.
The measurements
43.00 meters,43.00
andmeters, and
race times contain more digits to the 9.000 meters9.000
have four
have fourfigures.
significant figures.

right of the decimal? (Because the

technology used for timekeeping
improved to allow for more precise
Expected Outcome Students should 66 Chapter
663 Chapter 3
find that the race times from 1948 were
recorded to the nearest tenth of a
second. The race times from 2000 were
recorded to the nearest hundredth of a

66 Chapter 3
Figure 3.5 Three differently
a Measured length = 0.6 m
Use Visuals L1
calibrated meter sticks are
used to measure the length
of a board. a A meter stick Figure 3.5 As students inspect Figure
calibrated in a 1-m interval. 3.5, model the use of meter stick A by
b A meter stick calibrated in pointing out that one can be certain
0.1-m intervals. c A meter stick
calibrated in 0.01-m intervals. that the length of the board is between
b Measured length = 0.61 m
Measuring How many signifi- 0 and 1 m, and one can say that the
cant figures are reported in each actual length is closer to 1 m. Thus, one
can estimate the length as 0.6 m. Simi-
larly, using meter stick B, one can say
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 1m with certainty that the length is
between 60 and 70 cm. Because the
c Measured length = 0.607 m
length is very close to 60 cm, one
should estimate the length as 61 cm or
0.61 m. Have students study meter
stick C and use similar reasoning to
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 1m describe the measurement and estima-
tion process. Ask, If meterstick C were
divided into 0.001-m intervals, as
are most meter sticks, what would
be the estimated length of the board
in meters? (Acceptable answers range
from 0.6065 to 0.6074 m) In millime-
ters? (606.5 to 607.4 mm)
5 Zeros at the rightmost end of a measurement that lie to the left of an Discuss L2
understood decimal point are not significant if they serve as place-
holders to show the magnitude of the number. The zeros in the
Be sure to review the role of zeros in
measurements 300 meters, 7000 meters, and 27,210 meters are not determining the number of significant
significant. The numbers of significant figures in these values are one, figures. When adding or subtracting
one, and four, respectively. If such zeros were known measured values, numbers expressed in scientific nota-
however, then they would be significant. For example, if all of the tion, remind students that the num-
zeros in the measurement 300 meters were significant, writing the
bers must all have the same exponent.
value in scientific notation as 3.00  102 meters makes it clear that
these zeros are significant.

6 There are two situations in which numbers have an unlimited number

of significant figures. The first involves counting. If you count
23 people in your classroom, then there are exactly 23 people, and
this value has an unlimited number of significant figures. The second
situation involves exactly defined quantities such as those found
within a system of measurement. When, for example, you write
60 min  1 hr, or 100 cm  1 m, each of these numbers has an unlim-
ited number of significant figures. As you shall soon see, exact quan-
tities do not affect the process of rounding an answer to the correct
number of significant figures.

Section 3.1 Measurements and Their Uncertainty 67

Differentiated Instruction
Less Proficient Readers L1
Have students write in their own words the
rules for determining the number of signifi-
cant digits. Help them if necessary. Have
them measure several lengths, masses, and
volumes; then have them use their rules to Answers to...
determine the correct number of significant Figure 3.5 The measurements are:
figures for each measurement. a. 0.6 m (1 significant figure), b. 0.61
m (2 significant figures), c. 0.607 m
(3 significant figures)

Scientific Measurement 67
Section 3.1 (continued) CONCEPTUAL PROBLEM 3.1

Counting Significant Figures in Measurements

CLASS Activity How many significant figures are in each measurement?
a. 123 m b. 40,506 mm
Significant Zeros L2 c. 9.8000  104 m d. 22 meter sticks
e. 0.070 80 m f. 98,000 m
Purpose To provide practice in apply-
ing the rules governing the signifi-
Analyze Identify the relevant concepts. Solve Apply the concepts to this problem.
cance of zeros in measurements
The location of each zero in the measurement All nonzero digits are significant (rule 1). Use
Materials textbook and scientific liter- and the location of the decimal point deter- rules 2 through 6 to determine if the zeros are
ature, index cards mine which of the rules apply for determining significant.
Procedure Have students search their significant figures. a. three (rule 1) b. five (rule 2)
c. five (rule 4) d. unlimited (rule 6)
textbooks and other sources for
e. four (rules 2, 3, 4) f. two (rule 5)
length, mass, volume, or temperature
measurements that contain zeros. Practice Problems
Have them include some examples 1.Practice
Count theProblems
significant figures in each length.
written in scientific notation. Ask them a. 0.057 30 meters b. 8765 meters
to write each measurement on the c. 0.000 73 meters d. 40.007 meters
front of an index card; on the back of 2. How many significant figures are in each Problem-Solving 3.2 Solve
each card, have them write (1) all the measurement? Problem 2 with the help of an
interactive guided tutorial.
rules governing the significance of a. 143 grams b. 0.074 meter
c. 8.750  102 gram d. 1.072 meter with ChemASAP
zeros that apply to the measurement,
and (2) the number of significant fig-
ures in the measurement. Have pairs of
Significant Figures in Calculations
students exchange index cards and Suppose you use a calculator to find the area of a floor that measures
agree on the appropriateness of the 7.7 meters by 5.4 meters. The calculator would give an answer of
rules and the answers. 41.58 square meters. The calculated area is expressed to four significant fig-
Expected Outcome Students should ures. However, each of the measurements used in the calculation is
expressed to only two significant figures. So the answer must also be
be able to apply correctly rules 2–5
reported to two significant figures (42 m2). In general, a calculated
listed on pages 66 and 67. answer cannot be more precise than the least precise measurement from
which it was calculated. The calculated value must be rounded to make it
CONCEPTUAL PROBLEM 3.1 consistent with the measurements from which it was calculated.

Rounding To round a number, you must first decide how many signifi-
Answers cant figures the answer should have. This decision depends on the given
1. a. 4 b. 4 c. 2 d. 5 measurements and on the mathematical process used to arrive at the
2. a. 3 b. 2 c. 4 d. 4 answer. Once you know the number of significant figures your answer
should have, round to that many digits, counting from the left. If the digit
Practice Problems Plus L2 immediately to the right of the last significant digit is less than 5, it is
Chapter 3 Assessment problem 58 is simply dropped and the value of the last significant digit stays the same. If
the digit in question is 5 or greater, the value of the digit in the last signif-
related to Sample Problem 3.1. icant place is increased by 1.
FYI Checkpoint Why must a calculated answer generally be rounded?
Due to rounding, there will often be
discrepancies between actual values
and calculated values derived from 68 Chapter 3
measurements. Some students may
conclude (correctly) that following the
rules for significant figures introduces
error in calculated values. Such round-
ing errors are generally small, but
should nonetheless be acknowledged
when performing calculations.

68 Chapter 3
Significant Figures in

SAMPLE PROBLEM 3.1 Sample Problem 3.1

Rounding Measurements Answers

Round off each measurement to the number of significant figures 3. a. 8.71 × 101 m
shown in parentheses. Write the answers in scientific notation. b. 4.36 × 108 m
a. 314.721 meters (four)
c. 1.55 × 10–2 m
b. 0.001 775 meter (two)
c. 8792 meters (two)
d. 9.01 × 103 m
e. 1.78 × 10–3 m
Analyze Identify the relevant concepts. f. 6.30 × 102 m
Round off each measurement to the number of significant figures
4. a. 9 × 101 m
indicated. Then apply the rules for expressing numbers in scientific
b. 4 × 108 m
c. 2 × 10–2 m
Solve Apply the concepts to this problem. d. 9 × 103 m
Count from the left and apply the rule to the digit immediately to the
e. 2 × 10–3 m
right of the digit to which you are rounding. The arrow points to the
digit immediately following the last significant digit.
f. 6 × 102 m
a. 314.721 meters Practice Problems Plus L2
2 is less than 5, so you do not round up. Round each measurement to two sig-
314.7 meters  3.147  102 meters nificant figures. Write your answers in
b. 0.001 775 meter Math Handbook scientific notation.
7 is greater than 5, so round up. For help with scientific a. 94.592 grams (9.5 × 101g)
0.0018 meter  1.8  103 meter notation, go to page R56.
b. 2.4232 × 103 grams (2.4 × 103g)
c. 8792 meters c. 0.007 438 grams (7.4 × 10–3g)
d. 54 752 grams (5.5 × 104g)
9 is greater than 5, so round up
8800 meters  8.8  103 meters e. 6.0289 × 10–3 grams (6.0 × 10–3 g)
Practice Problems f. 405.11 grams (4.1 × 102g)
Evaluate Do the results make sense?
The rules for rounding and for writing numbers in scientific notation
have been correctly applied.
Math Handbook
Practice Problems
For a math refresher and practice,
Problem-Solving 3.3 Solve
3. Round each measurement to 4. Round each measurement in Problem 3 with the help of an
direct students to scientific notation,
three significant figures. Write Practice Problem 3 to one sig- interactive guided tutorial. page R56.
your answers in scientific nificant figure. Write each of with ChemASAP
notation. your answers in scientific
a. 87.073 meters notation.
b. 4.3621  108 meters
c. 0.01552 meter
d. 9009 meters
e. 1.7777  103 meter
f. 629.55 meters

Section 3.1 Measurements and Their Uncertainty 69

Answers to...

Checkpoint A calculated
answer must be rounded in order to
make it consistent with the
measurements from which it was
calculated. The calculated answer
cannot be more precise than the
least precise measurement used in
the calculation.

Scientific Measurement 69
Section 3.1 (continued) Addition and Subtraction The answer to an addition or subtraction
calculation should be rounded to the same number of decimal places (not
Discuss L2 digits) as the measurement with the least number of decimal places. Work
through Sample Problem 3.2 below which provides an example of rounding
The rules for rounding calculated num- in an addition calculation.
bers can be compared with the old
adage,“A chain is only as strong as its
weakest link.” Explain that an answer
cannot be more precise than the least Significant Figures in Addition
precise value used to calculate the Calculate the sum of the three measurements. Give the answer to the
answer. Ask, In addition and subtrac- correct number of significant figures.
tion, what is the least precise value? 12.52 meters ⫹ 349.0 meters ⫹ 8.24 meters
(The measurement with the fewest digits
Analyze Identify the relevant concepts.
to the right of the decimal point.) In mul- Calculate the sum and then analyze each measurement to determine
tiplication and division, what is the the number of decimal places required in the answer.
least precise value? (The measurement
Solve Apply the concepts to this problem.
with the fewest significant figures.) If stu-
Align the decimal points and add the numbers. Round the answer to
dents wonder why addition and subtrac- match the measurement with the least number of decimal places.
tion rules differ from multiplication and
12.52 meters
division rules, point out that in addition 349.0 meters
and subtraction of measurements, the Math + 8.24 meters
measurements are of the same property, 369.76 meters
such as length or volume. However, in For help with significant
figures, go to page R59.
The second measurement (349.0 meters) has the least number of digits
the multiplication and division of mea- (one) to the right of the decimal point. Thus the answer must be
surements, new quantities or properties rounded to one digit after the decimal point. The answer is rounded to
are being described, such as speed 369.8 meters, or 3.698 ⫻ 102 meters.

(length ÷ time), area (length × length), Evaluate Does the result make sense?
and density (mass ÷ volume). The mathematical operation has been correctly carried out and the
resulting answer is reported to the correct number of decimal places.

Sample Problem 3.2 Practice Problems

Answers 5. Perform each operation. 6. Find the total mass of three

Express your answers to the diamonds that have masses of
5. a. 79.2 m b. 7.33 m c. 11.53 m
correct number of significant 14.2 grams, 8.73 grams, and
d. 17.3 m figures. 0.912 gram.
Problem-Solving 3.6 Solve
6. 23.8 g Problem 6 with the help of an a. 61.2 meters ⫹ 9.35 meters ⫹
interactive guided tutorial. 8.6 meters
Practice Problems Plus L2
with ChemASAP b. 9.44 meters ⫺ 2.11 meters
Find the total mass of four stones c. 1.36 meters ⫹ 10.17 meters
with the following masses: 10.32 d. 34.61 meters ⫺ 17.3 meters
grams, 11.81 grams, 124.678 grams,
and 0.9129 gram. (147.72 g)

Math Handbook
For a math refresher and review,
direct students to scientific notation, 70 Chapter 3
page R56.

Sample Problem 3.3

Math Handbook
For a math refresher and practice,
7. a. 1.8 × 101 m2 b. 6.75 × 102 m direct students to using a calculator,
c. 5.87 × 10–1 min page R62.
8. 1.3 × 103 m3
Practice Problems Plus L2
Calculate the volume of a house that has
dimensions of 12.52 meters by 36.86
meters by 2.46 meters. (1.14 × 103 m3)

70 Chapter 3
Multiplication and Division In calculations involving multiplication
and division, you need to round the answer to the same number of signifi- Quick LAB
cant figures as the measurement with the least number of significant fig-
ures. The position of the decimal point has nothing to do with the rounding
process when multiplying and dividing measurements. The position of the L2
decimal point is important only in rounding the answers of addition or
Accuracy and Precision
subtraction problems. Objectives After completing this activ-
ity, students will be able to
Checkpoint How many significant figures must you round an answer to • measure length with accuracy and
when performing multiplication or division? precision.
• apply rules for rounding answers cal-
SAMPLE PROBLEM 3.3 culated from measurements.
Significant Figures in Multiplication and Division • determine experimental error and
Perform the following operations. Give the answers to the correct express it as percent error.
number of significant figures.
a. 7.55 meters ⫻ 0.34 meter
b. 2.10 meters ⫻ 0.70 meter
c. 2.4526 meters ⫼ 8.4

Analyze Identify the relevant concepts.

Students may contend that making
Perform the required math operation and then analyze each of the
original numbers to determine the correct number of significant
one measurement of some property,
figures required in the answer. such as length, is satisfactory. Ask,
What possible errors may occur
Solve Apply the concepts to this problem.
Math Handbook when making only one length mea-
Round the answers to match the measurement with the least number
of significant figures.
surement? (Acceptable answers include
For help with using a
a. 7.55 meters ⫻ 0.34 meter ⫽ 2.567 (meter)2 ⫽ 2.6 meters2 calculator, go to page R62. misreading the ruler or not holding the
(0.34 meter has two significant figures) ruler parallel to the length of the object.)
b. 2.10 meters ⫻ 0.70 meter ⫽ 1.47 (meter)2 ⫽ 1.5 meters2
(0.70 meter has two significant figures)
Skills Focus Measuring, calculating
c. 2.4526 meters ⫼ 8.4 ⫽ 0.291 976 meter ⫽ 0.29 meter
(8.4 has two significant figures)
Prep Time 5 minutes
Materials 3 inch × 5 inch index cards,
Evaluate Do the results make sense? metric rulers
The mathematical operations have been performed correctly, and the
Class Time 15 minutes
resulting answers are reported to the correct number of places.
Teaching Tips
Practice Problems
Emphasize that students should use an
7. Solve each problem. Give your 8. Calculate the volume of a Problem-Solving 3.8 Solve interior, marked line, such as 10.0 cm, as
Problem 8 with the help of an
answers to the correct num- warehouse that has inside the initial point, instead of the end of the
interactive guided tutorial.
ber of significant figures and dimensions of 22.4 meters by ruler, which may be damaged.
with ChemASAP
in scientific notation. 11.3 meters by 5.2 meters.
a. 8.3 meters ⫻ 2.22 meters (Volume ⫽ l ⫻ w ⫻ h) Expected Outcome Measured values
b. 8432 meters ⫼ 12.5 should be similar, but not necessarily
c. 35.2 seconds ⫻ 1 minute identical for all students.
60 seconds
Analyze and Conclude
1. Four for length; three for width
2. See Expected Outcome.
71 3. Significant digits for rounded-off
answers are area, 3, and perimeter, 4.
Some students may not round to the
proper number of digits.
For Enrichment L3 4. Errors of ±0.03 cm are acceptable.
Have students devise methods of calculating number of cards and divide by the number of Such errors yield percent errors of
the volume of one card. Point out that measur- cards.) Have students determine the thickness 0.2% for length and 0.4% for width.
ing the thickness of one card with a ruler would of one card and calculate its volume. Using the
be very inaccurate. Ask, How might the mea- class average of the calculated volumes, have
surement of the thickness of the card be each student determine the percent error Answers to...
improved? (Use a more precise instrument, such using the average as the accepted value.
as a micrometer, or measure the thickness of a Checkpoint The same num-
ber of significant figures as the mea-
surement with the least number of
significant figures.

Scientific Measurement 71
Quick LAB
Section 3.1 (continued)
Accuracy and Precision
Purpose Procedure
Evaluate Understanding L2 To measure the dimensions 1. Use a metric ruler to measure in centi-
Write the following sets of measure- of an object as accurately meters the length and width of an
and precisely as possible index card as accurately and precisely
ments on the board. and to apply rules for round- as you can. The hundredths place
(1) 78°C, 76°C, 75°C ing answers calculated in your measurement should be
(2) 77°C, 78°C, 78°C from the measurements. estimated.
(3) 80°C, 81°C, 82°C 2. Calculate the perimeter [2  (length 
Materials width)] and the area (length  width)
Ask, If these sets of measurements • card
3 inch  5 inch index 3. How many significant figures are in
of the index card. Write both your
were made of the boiling point of a unrounded answers and your correctly
your calculated value for the area? In
liquid under similar conditions, • metric ruler rounded answers on the chalkboard.
your calculated value for the perime-
ter? Do your rounded answers have as
explain which set is the most pre- many significant figures as your class-
Analyze and Conclude
cise? (Set 2 is the most precise because 1. How many significant figures are in mates’ measurements?
the three measurements are closest your measurements of length and 4. Assume that the correct (accurate)
together.) What would have to be of width? length and width of the card are
known to determine which set is the 2. How do your measurements compare 12.70 cm and 7.62 cm, respectively.
with those of your classmates? Calculate the percent error for each of
most accurate? (the accepted value of your two measurements.
the liquid’s boiling point)
Reteach L1
Use Figure 3.5 to reteach the method
of correctly recording the number of 3.1 Section Assessment
significant figures in a measurement.
Then have students convert each mea- 9. Key Concept How do measurements relate to 15. Solve the following and express each answer in
experimental science? scientific notation and to the correct number of
surement into scientific notation. significant figures.
10. Key Concept How are accuracy and precision
(6 × 10–1 m, 6.1 × 10–1 m, 6.07 × 10–1 m) a. (5.3  104)  (1.3  104)
b. (7.2  104)  (1.8  103)
11. Key Concept Why must a given measurement
c. 104  103  106
always be reported to the correct number of sig-
d. (9.12  101)  (4.7  102)
nificant figures?
e. (5.4  104)  (3.5  109)
12. Key Concept How does the precision of a cal-
Acceptable answers will include the
culated answer compare to the precision of the
following information: Accuracy measurements used to obtain it?
compares a measured value to an 13. A technician experimentally determined the Explanatory Paragraph Explain the differences
accepted value of the measurement, boiling point of octane to be 124.1°C. The actual between the accuracy, precision, and error of a
precision compares a measured value boiling point of octane is 125.7°C. Calculate the measurement.
to a set of measurements made under error and the percent error.
similar conditions, and error is the 14. Determine the number of significant figures in
difference between the measured and each of the following.
a. 11 soccer players b. 0.070 020 meter
accepzzted values. c. 10,800 meters d. 5.00 cubic meters Assessment 3.1 Test yourself
on the concepts in Section 3.1.
with ChemASAP

72 Chapter 3

If your class subscribes to the

Interactive Textbook, use it to
review key concepts in Section 3.1. Section 3.1 Assessment
with ChemASAP 9. Making correct measurements is funda- 12. A calculated answer cannot be more pre-
mental to the experimental sciences. cise than the least precise measurement
10. Accuracy is the measured value compared used in the calculation.
to the correct values. Precision is compar- 13. error = –1.6°C; percent error = 1.3%
ing more than one measurement. 14. a. unlimited b. 5 c. 3 d. 3
11. The significant figures in a calculated 15. a. 6.6 × 104 b. 4.0 × 10–7 c. 107
answer often depend on the number of d. 8.65 × 10–1 e. 1.9 × 1014
significant figures of the measurements
used in the calculation.

72 Chapter 3