In this article, you’ll learn about **absolute values** – what they are, how they’re used, and how to use the Python *abs()* function to calculate them.

## What is the Absolute Value of a Number?

The **absolute value** of a number is that number’s value without any regard to its **sign**.

A number’s sign is whether it is *positive* or *negative*. So, the absolute value of a number is never *negative*. To make it simple, consider the absolute value of a number that numbers distance from **0**.

It is also referred to in mathematics and other programming languages as the **modulus** or **magnitude** of a number.

Here are some examples to illustrate:

Number | Absolute/Modulus Value |
---|---|

4 | 4 |

-4 | 4 |

-2.5 | 2.5 |

–x |
x |

When writing mathematical equations, it is denoted as **| x|** (surrounding the number,

*x*, with two vertical bars).

## How/Why are Absolute Values Used?

**Absolute values** are most often used when dealing with distances (mapping) and physics (simulation, games) calculations.

For example, when calculation speed or direction, you measure that speed or direction in relation to a fixed point. The movement to the right may be considered positive, and movement to the left negative.

So, if you’ve moved 20m to the left, your position from the point of origin would be -20, but you can’t have a negative distance (there’s no such thing as a negative kilometer) – so to calculate the *distance* from the point of origin you’d use the **absolute value** of your new position:

|-20| = 20

**This may seem like a trivial difference – but it becomes crucial when calculating an object’s position and movement – if you want to make video games, you’ll be using it a lot!**

The Python *abs()* Function Syntax

The built-in Python *abs()* function calculates the absolute value of a given number. Here’s the syntax:

abs(NUMBER)

Any kind of number can be passed to *abs()*

## The Python *abs()* Function Examples

abs(4) # Returns 4 abs(-4) # Returns 4 abs(-2.5) # Returns 2.5

Easy!