What is Magnitude? - Definition & Concept Video

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Probability of Independent and Dependent Events

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:05 What is Magnitude?
  • 1:01 Magnitude for Simple Numbers
  • 2:04 Magnitude for Complex Numbers
  • 3:47 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

In this lesson, you will learn a simple way of thinking about magnitude and how to find it. You will also explore the differences in magnitude for simple numbers and complex numbers.

What is Magnitude?

Just as the magnitude of an earthquake tells you how big the earthquake is, the magnitude of a mathematical term tells you how big that term is. In math, this means how far away the math term is from zero.

For numbers such as 1, 2, 3, and so on, the magnitude is simply the number itself. If the number is negative, the magnitude becomes the absolute value of the number. For example, the magnitude of 10 is 10. The magnitude of -10 becomes the absolute value of -10, which is 10. In both cases, the magnitude is the distance the mathematical term is from zero. Both 10 and -10 are a distance of 10 away from zero.


Here is a visual to help you picture it. This image shows us that the magnitude of both 10 and -10 is 10 because both are a distance 10 away from zero.

How to Find the Magnitude for Simple Numbers

The process to find the magnitude of simple numbers requires only one step. This step is to take the absolute value of the number. For simple numbers, you can think of the absolute value as the positive version of every number. This is the only time in math where you can ignore the negative sign. When you are dealing with magnitude and absolute value, negative signs get dropped. Negative numbers are always positive in the world of magnitude and absolute value.

For example, the magnitude of 3.14 will always be 3.14 because the absolute value of a positive number is always itself. The magnitude of -3.14 will be 3.14 as well because the absolute value of a negative number is the positive version of the number without the negative sign. You are essentially dropping or ignoring the negative sign.

But remember, negative signs are very important in math everywhere else. Only when you are dealing with the absolute value of simple numbers can you ignore it.

How to Find the Magnitude for Complex Numbers

Complex numbers have more than one part to them. Complex numbers are written with a '+' in between a real and an imaginary part. An example of a complex number is 4 + 3i'. Notice that the complex number has two parts to it, a real and imaginary part, separated by a '+' sign.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account