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Explain like I’m five: floating numbers

When we count things like apples or toys, we often use whole numbers: 1, 2, 3, and so on. But what if you want to talk about something that isn’t a whole number? For example, what if you want to talk about the length of a movie (like 1.5 hours) or the weight of a letter (like 0.49 ounces)? These numbers aren’t whole numbers – they have a part that’s smaller than 1, after the decimal point.

This is where floating-point numbers, or “floats”, come in. A float is a way that computers and programming languages represent real numbers, which can be both whole numbers and numbers with fractions. They’re called “floating-point” because the decimal point can be in different places. For example, the number 12.34 could also be written as 1.234 times 10, or 0.1234 times 100.

This might seem complicated, but it’s really just a way to talk about numbers that aren’t whole numbers, or that are very big or very small. If you’ve ever talked about money, like saying something costs $3.50, then you’ve already used a kind of “float” in real life!