Welcome to our Math lesson on **What Are Surds?**, this is the first lesson of our suite of math lessons covering the topic of **Surds**, you can find links to the other lessons within this tutorial and access additional Math learning resources below this lesson.

When the term "**surds**" was first introduced, mathematicians intended it as an alternative name for irrational numbers. So, basically, in that original sense, they considered surds and irrational numbers as representing the same thing.

However, now surds and irrational numbers mean different things. More precisely, surds represent only a subset of irrational numbers. This means there are many irrational numbers that are not surds but on the other hand, all surds are irrational numbers.

Let's explain in more detail the difference between surds and irrational numbers by introducing the subset of irrational numbers that do not belong to surds. All numbers included in this subset are called 'transcendental numbers' and we may encounter them in the form of constants used in science. For example, π, e (Euler's Number), trigonometric functions such as sin α, cos α, tan α and cot α if the angle is measured in radians, etc., are all transcendental numbers.

By definition, **a transcendental number is an irrational number that is not the root of any number, meaning that it is not an algebraic number of any degree**.

From here, by induction, we obtain the definition of surds. Thus, **surds are all numbers representing unresolved roots of any real number**.

For example, √2;√3; √8; ∛11; *√***29**; √**1/6**; etc., are all surds because their value (although irrational) is obtained by calculating the roots of either integers or rational numbers (integers are rational numbers though). Indeed, when a calculator is used to find the value of the above numbers, it gives

√2 = 1.4142135623730950488016887242097…

√3 = 1.7320508075688772935274463415059…

√8 = 2.8284271247461900976033774484194…

∛11 = 2.2239800905693155211653633767222…

*√***29** = 1.9610090574545480132063568500978…

√*1**/**6* = √**0.16666666…** = 0.40824829046386301636621401245098…

√3 = 1.7320508075688772935274463415059…

√8 = 2.8284271247461900976033774484194…

∛11 = 2.2239800905693155211653633767222…

√

On the other hand, numbers like √25; √2.8224; ∛0.125; etc., are not surds because the result of these roots is a finite number. Indeed,

√25 = 5 because 5^{2} = 25

√2.8224 = 1.68 because 1.68^{2} = 2.8224

√2.8224 = 1.68 because 1.68

and

∛0.125 = 0.5 because 0.5^{3} = 0.125

The following diagram shows the relationship between surds, transcendental numbers and irrational ones.

To summarize, a surd is a root of a positive real quantity if its value cannot be exactly determined.

Which of the following numbers represents a surd?

- √121
- ∛125
- √179.56
- √21

Using a calculator to make the operations, we obtain

- √121 = 11
- ∛125 = 5
- √179.56 = 13.4
- √21 = 4.582575694955840006588047193728…

From all numbers, only √21 gives an infinite non-recurring part after the decimal point. All the other roots are finite, so they are not surds. Only √21 is a surd.

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- Powers and Roots Revision Notes: Surds. Print the notes so you can revise the key points covered in the math tutorial for Surds
- Powers and Roots Practice Questions: Surds. Test and improve your knowledge of Surds with example questins and answers
- Check your calculations for Powers and Roots questions with our excellent Powers and Roots calculators which contain full equations and calculations clearly displayed line by line. See the Powers and Roots Calculators by iCalculator™ below.
- Continuing learning powers and roots - read our next math tutorial: Rationalising the Denominator

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