Electronic Proceedings of the Seventh Annual International Conference on Technology in Collegiate Mathematics

Orlando, Florida, November 17-20, 1994

Paper C024

Should We Be Concerned About Roundoff Error?

Anthony P. Leclerc

Department of Computer Science
The College of Charleston
66 George Street
Charleston, SC 29424
Phone: (803) 953-5963

Click to access this paper: paper.pdf


Floating point computations, whether performed in a programming language, on a calculator, or on a computer mathematic system such as Derive, Macsyma, Maple, or Mathematica, are susceptible to roundoff error. Some might contend that, today, roundoff error is not a critical issue because of the extended precision floating point numbers available on many computers. However, roundoff error can be severe, even for innocuous-looking computations.

This paper will consider what can be done to alleviate roundoff error. In addition, the following questions will be addressed: