The Rules for Zeros

Many students are perplexed by the significant figures rules for zeros. Most accept that non-zeros are significant but become uncertain (pun intended) when considering zeros. It is easiest to consider the zeros from the left to the right of non-zeros.

Left (Leading)
Zeros to the left of non zeros are always insignificant.

Middle (Trapped)
Zeros placed between non zeros are always significant.

Right (Trailing)
These zeros are a little more tricky. The presence of a decimal makes the difference. If a decimal is present then zeros to the right of the non zeros are significant. If a decimal is absent then the zeros to the right of the non zeros are insignificant.

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