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### Rounding numbers

```
Date: 8/4/96 at 23:53:45
From: Jackie Linn Johnson
Subject: Rounding numbers

Dr. Math,

Can you define the word "round" for me?
The children ask, "What is round?"
```

```
Date: 8/6/96 at 10:50:26
From: Doctor Jerry
Subject: Re: Rounding numbers

I looked in two dictionaries and found no particular derivation of the
word "round" as applied to "rounding a number."  It is my guess that
the meaning gradually emerged from the generalized meaning of
rounding, to make circular, whole, or entire, as in rounding an
irregular piece of wood, so that it becomes regular.  When a number is
rounded to the nearest integer, we are in some sense simplifying or
perfecting the number.  The number 5 inches is somehow more easily
grasped by the mind than 5.17 inches, especially when, for the task at
hand, 5 inches is close enough.

If we are laying out a garden with stakes, measuring tape, and string,
measuring to the nearest inch is close enough.

-Doctor Jerry,  The Math Forum
Check out our web site!  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
```
Associated Topics:
Elementary Place Value

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