Math seminar to look at significant digits

The Grand Rapids Community College Mathematics Department will host its last Mathematics Seminar of the Fall 2013 semester on Thursday, December 5, 3:00 – 4:00 PM in 107 Cook.  Our presenter, GRCC Mathematics Instructor Dana Sammons, will discuss the importance of, and the mathematics behind, significant digits.

The mathematics in this seminar will be accessible to anyone with good number sense, and should be of interest to those who wish to accurately represent the results of mathematical analyses of real-world problems.  Everyone in the greater GRCC community is welcome.

Pop and cookies will be served at 2:45 PM.

Significant Figures: The Mathematics Behind Their Significance

 Significant Figures are:

  • those digits that carry meaning contributing to its precision (Wikipedia)
  • the number of important digits in an expression (Whatis)

Just as many people believe what they read on websites like Wikipedia and Whatis when it might not be justified, often people believe that numbers are significant without carefully considering whether they deserve it.

In “The Pedagogy of Poverty vs. Good Teaching,” M. Abraham suggests we should provide students with a meaning-driven curriculum. If we are to analyze, discuss and interpret the meaning of the results of calculations with any integrity, we must know with what precision we should assign the numbers.

This talk will look into the mathematics behind the “rules” associated with significant figures, including some of the suggested improvements people have made over time.

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