# How to find the difference for an infinite fraction

Suppose I have the number 0.101 in binary. If I want to round it to 2 places after the radix point using the algorithm rounding to the nearest I can easily find the difference between two available options (0.10 and 0.11):

0.101 - 0.10 =  0.001 = 1/8
0.101 - 0.11 = -0.001 = -1/8


However, how I would do the subtraction for the infinite fraction like 0.1:

$$0.1_{10} = 0.0001100110011001100110011001100110011001100110011..._2$$

Suppose, I want to round it to 10 places after the radix point. How would I go about that?

• Ten places takes you to $0.0001100110$ the next few digits are $011$. So if you round to the nearest you round down in this case. If the next few digits begin with a 0 you will always round down. If the next few digits begin with 11 you will always round up. You will also round up if the next digit is 1 and at some point there is a subsequent 1, eg 10000000001. The only tie-breaker case is 1000... . – almagest May 18 '16 at 11:00
• Thanks, but how did you calculate that? To get the same result I'd need to do subtraction – Max Koretskyi May 18 '16 at 11:02
• Doing a subtraction is a huge waste of time. What is the tie breaker case where the number is exactly halfway between the two rounding possibilities? Answer it is the smaller one followed by a single 1. If there is any 1 after that, then it must be closer to the larger number. If the first digit is a 0, then we always round down (except in the case where that is followed by nothing but 1s, since that is another way of writing a 1 followed by 0s) because the smaller number must be closer. – almagest May 18 '16 at 11:05
• Okay, let me digest it and I'll get back to you with questions. Maybe you could post it as an answer? – Max Koretskyi May 18 '16 at 11:08

## 1 Answer

There is a much quicker way of applying the "round to the nearest" rule than by carrying out subtractions.

Suppose rounding down gives $a$ and rounding up gives $b$. The "round to the nearest" rule says round to whichever of $a,b$ is nearer. That is unambiguous unless the number is $\frac{a+b}{2}$ which is equidistant. We deal with that case by a tie-breaker rule (which you asked about in an earlier question).

But another way of expressing the rule is that we round up if the number is $>\frac{a+b}{2}$ and round down if it is $<\frac{a+b}{2}$.

In the case of binary fractions the number $\frac{a+b}{2}$ is the smaller number $a$ followed by a digit 1 (and nothing or only 0s thereafter). So this alternative method is much quicker. If the next digit is a 1 and there is at some point a subsequent 1, then we round up, because the number must be closer to $b$. Similarly, if the next digit is a 0 and that is not followed by an infinite string of nothing but 1s, then we round down, because the number must be closer to $a$.

You asked in the comments below for an example. For example, suppose you want to round $x=0.0110110$ to 6 places. Your choices are $a=0.011011$ or $b=0.011100$. The midpoint is $\frac{a+b}{2}=0.0110111$ which can be obtained by adding a 1 at the end of $a$. In this case $x$ has a $0$ at the end so you round it down to $a$ because we have $x<\frac{a+b}{2}$.

• can you please elaborate on this In the case of binary fractions the number (a+b)/2 is the smaller number a followed by a digit 1 (and nothing or only 0s thereafter). ? I think some example would be very helpful. thanks – Max Koretskyi May 19 '16 at 9:23
• thanks for you edition, but I still have a lot of questions :(, bear with me please) I don't really understand how you came up with the b version 0.011100? I thought it should be 0.011010 – Max Koretskyi May 19 '16 at 9:40
• If you truncate $x$ at 6 places you get $0.011011$. Rounding up means increasing the last digit by 1. That gives $0.011012$. But digits have to be 1 or 2, so we rewrite that as $0.01110$. Or more formally $0.011011+0.000001=0.011100$. – almagest May 19 '16 at 9:44
• thanks a lot, I understand that the a (smaller) number will always be just truncated number? – Max Koretskyi May 19 '16 at 10:16
• @Maximus Yes, that is correct. – almagest May 19 '16 at 10:31