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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
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Associated Topics:
Elementary Place Value

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