Square Root Calculator

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Square Root Calculator

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What is Square Root?

In mathematics, a square root of a number x is a number y such that y2 = x; in other words, a number y whose square (the result of multiplying the number by itself, or y ⋅ y) is x.

For example, 4 and −4 are square roots of 16 because 42 = (−4)2 = 16. Every nonnegative real number x has a unique nonnegative square root, called the principal square root, which is denoted by √x, where the symbol √ is called the radical sign or radix. For example, the principal square root of 9 is 3, which is denoted by √9 = 3, because 32 = 3 ⋅ 3 = 9 and 3 is nonnegative. The term (or number) whose square root is being considered is known as the radicand. The radicand is the number or expression underneath the radical sign, in this example 9.

Every positive number x has two square roots: √x, which is positive, and −√x, which is negative. Together, these two roots are denoted as ±√x (see ± shorthand). Although the principal square root of a positive number is only one of its two square roots, the designation "the square root" is often used to refer to the principal square root. For positive x, the principal square root can also be written in exponent notation, as x1/2.

Square roots of negative numbers can be discussed within the framework of complex numbers. More generally, square roots can be considered in any context in which a notion of "squaring" of some mathematical objects is defined (including algebras of matrices, endomorphism rings, etc.)


The Yale Babylonian Collection YBC 7289 clay tablet was created between 1800 BC and 1600 BC, showing √2 and √2/2 = 1/√2 respectively as 1;24,51,10 and 0;42,25,35 base 60 numbers on a square crossed by two diagonals. (1;24,51,10) base 60 corresponds to 1.41421296, which is a correct value to 5 decimal points (1.41421356...).

The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus is a copy from 1650 BC of an earlier Berlin Papyrus and other texts – possibly the Kahun Papyrus – that shows how the Egyptians extracted square roots by an inverse proportion method.

In Ancient India, the knowledge of theoretical and applied aspects of square and square root was at least as old as the Sulba Sutras, dated around 800–500 BC (possibly much earlier). A method for finding very good approximations to the square roots of 2 and 3 are given in the Baudhayana Sulba Sutra. Aryabhata, in the Aryabhatiya (section 2.4), has given a method for finding the square root of numbers having many digits.

It was known to the ancient Greeks that square roots of positive integers that are not perfect squares are always irrational numbers: numbers not expressible as a ratio of two integers (that is, they cannot be written exactly as m/n, where m and n are integers). This is the theorem Euclid X, 9, almost certainly due to Theaetetus dating back to circa 380 BC. The particular case √2 is assumed to date back earlier to the Pythagoreans, and is traditionally attributed to Hippasus. It is exactly the length of the diagonal of a square with side length 1.

In the Chinese mathematical work Writings on Reckoning, written between 202 BC and 186 BC during the early Han Dynasty, the square root is approximated by using an "excess and deficiency" method, which says to "...combine the excess and deficiency as the divisor; (taking) the deficiency numerator multiplied by the excess denominator and the excess numerator times the deficiency denominator, combine them as the dividend."

A symbol for square roots, written as an elaborate R, was invented by Regiomontanus (1436–1476). An R was also used for radix to indicate square roots in Gerolamo Cardano's Ars Magna.

According to historian of mathematics D.E. Smith, Aryabhata's method for finding the square root was first introduced in Europe by Cataneo—in 1546.

According to Jeffrey A. Oaks, Arabs used the letter jīm/ĝīm (ج), the first letter of the word “جذر” (variously transliterated as jaḏr, jiḏr, ǧaḏr or ǧiḏr, “root”), placed in its initial form (ﺟ) over a number to indicate its square root. The letter jīm resembles the present square root shape. Its usage goes as far as the end of the twelfth century in the works of the Moroccan mathematician Ibn al-Yasamin.

Most pocket calculators have a square root key. Computer spreadsheets and other software are also frequently used to calculate square roots.

The square roots of the perfect squares (e.g., 0, 1, 4, 9, 16) are integers. In all other cases, the square roots of positive integers are irrational numbers, and hence have non-repeating decimals in their decimal representations.

The most common iterative method of square root calculation by hand is known as the "Babylonian method" or "Heron's method" after the first-century Greek philosopher Heron of Alexandria, who first described it. The algorithm is to repeat a simple calculation that results in a number closer to the actual square root each time it is repeated with its result as the new input. The motivation is that if x is an overestimate to the square root of a nonnegative real number a then a/x will be an underestimate and so the average of these two numbers is a better approximation than either of them. However, the inequality of arithmetic and geometric means shows this average is always an overestimate of the square root (as noted below), and so it can serve as a new overestimate with which to repeat the process, which converges as a consequence of the successive overestimates and underestimates being closer to each other after each iteration. To find x:

  • Start with an arbitrary positive start value x. The closer to the square root of a, the fewer the iterations that will be needed to achieve the desired precision.
  • Replace x by the average (x + a/x) / 2 between x and a/x.
  • Repeat from step 2, using this average as the new value of x.

That is, if an arbitrary guess for √a is x0, and xn + 1 = (xn + a/xn) / 2, then each xn is an approximation of √a which is better for large n than for small n. If a is positive, the convergence is quadratic, which means that in approaching the limit, the number of correct digits roughly doubles in each next iteration. If a = 0, the convergence is only linear.

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