Numbers and Floats in Python

Numbers are used quite often in programming to keep score in games, represent data in visualizations, store information in web applications, and so on. Python treats numbers in several different ways, depending on how they are being used. Let’s first look at how Python manages integers, because they are the simplest to work with.


You can add (+), subtract (-), multiply (*), and divide (/) integers in Python.

>>> 2 + 3
>>> 3 - 2
>>> 2 * 3
>>> 3 / 2

In a terminal session, Python simply returns the result of the operation. Python uses two multiplication symbols to represent exponents:

>>> 3 ** 2
>>> 3 ** 3
>>> 10 ** 6

Python supports the order of operations too, so you can use multiple operations in one expression. You can also use
parentheses to modify the order of operations so Python can evaluate your expression in the order you specify. For example:

>> 2 + 3*4
>>> (2 + 3) * 4

The spacing in these examples has no effect on how Python evaluates the expressions; it simply helps you more quickly spot the operations that have priority when you’re reading through the code.


Python calls any number with a decimal point a float. This term is used in most programming languages, and it refers to the fact that a decimal point can appear at any position in a number. Every programming language must be carefully designed to properly manage decimal numbers so numbers behave appropriately no matter where the decimal point appears.

For the most part, you can use decimals without worrying about how they behave. Simply enter the numbers you want to use, and Python will most likely do what you expect:

>>> 0.1 + 0.1
>>> 0.2 + 0.2
>>> 2 * 0.1
>>> 2 * 0.2

But be aware that you can sometimes get an arbitrary number of decimal places in your answer:

>>> 0.2 + 0.1
>>> 3 * 0.1

This happens in all languages and is of little concern. Python tries to find a way to represent the result as precisely as
possible, which is sometimes difficult given how computers have to represent numbers internally. Just ignore the extra decimal places for now; you’ll learn ways to deal with the extra places when you need to in the projects in Part II.

This article is an excerpt from A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming by Eric Matthes

Reproduced with permission from No Starch Press

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