# Mathematics for Chemistry/Statistics

## Definition of errors

For a quantity $x$ the error is defined as $\Delta x$. Consider a burette which can be read to ±0.05 cm3 where the volume is measured at 50 cm3.

• The absolute error is $\pm \Delta x, \pm 0.05~\text{cm}^3$
• The fractional error is $\pm \frac{\Delta x}{x}$, $\pm \frac{0.05}{50} = \pm 0.001$
• The percentage error is $\pm 100 \times \frac{\Delta x}{x} = \pm 0.1$%

## Combination of uncertainties

In an experimental situation, values with errors are often combined to give a resultant value. Therefore, it is necessary to understand how to combine the errors at each stage of the calculation.

### Addition or subtraction

Assuming that $\Delta x$ and $\Delta y$ are the errors in measuring $x$ and $y$, and that the two variables are combined by addition or subtraction, the uncertainty (absolute error) may be obtained by calculating

$\sqrt{(\Delta x)^2 + (\Delta y)^2}$

which can the be expressed as a relative or percentage error if necessary.

### Multiplication or division

Assuming that $\Delta x$ and $\Delta y$ are the errors in measuring $x$ and $y$, and that the two variables are combined by multiplication or division, the fractional error may be obtained by calculating

$\sqrt{(\frac{\Delta x}{x})^2 + (\frac{\Delta y}{y})^2}$