Very large/very small numbersVery large numbers can be awkward to write. For example, the approximate distance from the earth to the sun is ninety three million miles. This is commonly written as the number "93" followed by six zeros signifying that the "93" is actually 93 million miles and not 93 thousand miles or 93 miles.
Scientific notation (also called exponential notation) provides a more compact method for writing very large (or very small) numbers. In scientific notation, the distance from the earth to the sun is 9.3 x 107 miles.
Very small numbers can be as awkward to write as large numbers. A paper clip weighs a bit more than one thousandth of a pound (0.0011 LB). This would be expressed in scientific notation as 1.1 x 10-3 lb. The negative sign indicates that the decimal point is moved to the left.
Numbers are customarily written with one digit to the left of the decimal point. Numbers may be correctly represented in other ways.
Representing a number using scientific notation
The number 2,398,730,000,000 can be written in scientific notation as (the starred representation is most common):
0.239873 x 1013
****2.39873 x 1012****
23.9873 x 1011
239.873 x 1010
The number 0.003,483 can be written in scientific notation as (the starred representation is most common):
****3.483 x 10-3****
Scientific notation and multiplication/division
Multiplication and division of large or small numbers is simplified using scientific notation. The decimal parts of the two numbers are multiplied or divided as appropriate to give the decimal part of the answer. The exponents are added together (in the case of multiplication) or subtracted (for division) and provide the exponent for the answer. The answer is adjusted so that only one digit is to the left of the decimal point in the decimal part.
Multiplying numbers written in scientific notation
To multiply 4 x 10 4 and 6 x 105:
General Rule(a x 10x)(b x 10y) = ab x 10x+y
Dividing numbers written in scientific notation
To divide 6 x 10 5 and 4 x 104:
General Rulesome test text (a x 10x)/(b x 10y) = a/b x 10x-y
some test text
Scientific notation and addition/subtraction
Adding and subtracting numbers written in scientific notation is more complicated than multiplication/division. Consider adding 0.0034 and 0.021:
Now, neither the decimal part or the exponential part combine together in any obvious manner (as they did with multiplication and division). When adding or subtracting numbers written in exponential notation, the numbers must first be rewritten so the exponents are identical. Then, the numbers can be added or subtracted normally
Adding/subtracting numbers written in scientific notationTo add 3.4 x 10-3 to 2.1 x 10-2:
Try some problems using scientific notation!
Do on-line problems!