"This web site is dedicated to the discussion of issues relating to the proper teaching of significant figures and rounding rules in high school and college science courses." - Christopher Mulliss (page Author)
The Work of Christopher Mulliss and Dr. Wei Lee’s Team^{1}
In 1996, I read a note in The Physics Teacher by R. H. Good. In this note, Good describes a division problem that he discovered by accident in which the standard rounding rule caused precision to be lost in the result of the calculation. In other words, the standard rounding rule caused a digit to be discarded even though we were justified in keeping it! Thus, the "rule" that we all use is potentially dangerous to our data - an unacceptable situation!!
This note caused me to question the standard rounding "rule" for multiplication and division. Where did this rule comes from? How often does it fail? How can it fail? Is there a better alternative? How is the rule for multiplication and division related to the rule for addition and subtraction? With the help of Dr. Wei Lee, I began a detailed investigation this so-called rule that resulted in the answers to these fundamental and important questions. The results prove to be quite surprising!
^{1} Department of Physics, Chung Yuan Christian University in Chung-Li, Taiwan
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