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7 Examples of Absolute Value

September 9, 2023
written by Rida Mirza

Absolute value is like a tool in math that helps us figure out how big a number is from zero.

 It is represented by two vertical bars surrounding a number, such as |x|.

 In this article, we will discuss about examples of absolute values, learn what they are, how they do their job, and see lots of real examples to make this mathematics idea super easy to understand.

image showing the 7 example of absolute value

Absolute Value

Absolute value, denoted as |x|, is a mathematical operation that yields the non-negative value of a real number, regardless of its sign.

In simpler terms, it tells us “how far” a number is from zero on the number line.

The Basics

Absolute value can be defined as follows:

If x is positive or zero, |x| = x.

If x is negative, |x| = -x.

Absolute value removes the negative sign from a negative number, making it positive. For positive numbers or zero, it remains unchanged.

Real-Life Examples of Absolute Value

These are seven examples of absolute value in real life.

 1: Distance and Displacement

In physics, absolute value plays a crucial role in measuring distance and displacement.

 When calculating how far an object has traveled or how far it is from a reference point, absolute value ensures that direction doesn’t affect the outcome.


 If an object moves 5 meters to the left and then 3 meters to the right, its net displacement is |5 – 3| = 2 meters.

2: Temperature Differences

Absolute value is also handy in meteorology. When determining temperature variations, the focus is on the difference rather than the direction of change.


 If the temperature drops from 10°C to -5°C, the absolute temperature change is

 |10 – (-5)| = 15°C.

3: Financial Gain and Loss

In finance, absolute value is used to analyze investment returns. Whether you gained or lost money, the magnitude of the change matters more than its direction.


If you invested $1,000 and now have $1,200, your absolute return is

 |1200 – 1000| = $200.

4: Solving Equations

When solving equations involving absolute values, we often encounter two cases.


 Consider |2x – 1| = 5. To find the solutions, we split it into:

Case 1: 2x – 1 = 5, leading to x = 3.

Case 2: -(2x – 1) = 5, leading x = -2.

 5: Limits in Calculus

In calculus, absolute value is like a tool that comes in handy when we’re looking at limits.

Imagine we’re trying to figure out what happens to a math function as it gets really close to a particular number.

 The absolute value helps by making sure the answer is never negative; it’s always positive.

 This makes it easier to do the math and understand what’s going on.

6: Distance Between Points

In the Cartesian plane, absolute value is used to find the distance between two points (x₁, y₁) and (x₂, y₂). The formula for distance d is given by:

d = √((x₂ – x₁)² + (y₂ – y₁)²)

Here, the absolute value ensures that the distance is never negative.

7: Error Metrics

In computer science, absolute value is often used in error metrics. It helps quantify the difference between predicted and actual values in various algorithms and models.

Absolute value is like a helpful math idea that shows up in many different areas.

 It’s used in things like physics, money stuff, math problems, shapes, and even in computer stuff.

When you get what absolute value is all about, it helps you see how math connects to the real world better.


Why is absolute value important in mathematics?

Absolute value is important because it provides a way to measure the distance or magnitude of a number without considering its sign, making it a valuable tool in various mathematical and real-life contexts.

Can you have negative absolute value?

No, absolute value is always non-negative. It transforms negative numbers into positive ones, and positive numbers remain unchanged.

 Where else can I find absolute value in everyday life?

You can find absolute value in fields like physics, engineering, economics, and even when using GPS navigation systems to calculate distances between locations.

How is absolute value represented in mathematical notation?

Absolute value is represented by two vertical bars surrounding a number, like |x|, where x is the number you want to find the absolute value of.

Are there any advanced mathematical concepts related to absolute value?

Yes, absolute value is closely related to the concept of “norms” in mathematics, which extends its application to vector spaces and advanced algebraic structures.

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