Educator Resources for Exponents

Numbers are sort of like your bedroom closet: the less clutter, the better. So how do you express a number that gets really big, really fast—say, the growth of a rabbit population, or the distance between two planets—without it taking up your whole notebook? Exponents are the answer! That tiny number that appears above and to the right of a base number indicates repeated multiplication. It expresses how many of the base numbers get multiplied. This kind of growth is exponential, and it can send numbers skyrocketing in a flash! Representing such huge quantities in a compact package is what exponents do best. Instead of writing out 1,000,000,000, you can simply write 10^9—which is read as “10 to the ninth power.” On the flip side, negative exponents show repeated division. That makes them perfect for expressing super-small numbers, such as the diameter of an atom. From numbers in the millions to measurements in microns, click "play" to learn more about these handy numerical space-savers!