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How to Do Scientific Notation

Updated on September 29, 2012
How to Perform Scientific Notation
How to Perform Scientific Notation

What is Scientific Notation?

Scientific Notation is a way of representing a very large or very small number in a simple way. It is used often in high school math as well as in chemistry or other sciences.

How to Perform Scientific Notation on Large Numbers

You can use scientific notation on large numbers as such. First, count how many decimal places you are away from having you number be a one digit number, or a number that has a digit in the ones place, but not the tens place. (For instance, 4000 is 3 decimal places away from being a one digit number.) It's OK if you have several numbers in tenths, hundredths, and thousandths places. Just make sure you don't have any in the tens place or higher. Then take your new small number and have that be multiplied by 10 to the power of the number of decimal places you moved to make the number a one digit number. So 4000 would be 4x103.

How to Use Scientific Notation on Small Numbers

You can use scientific notation on small numbers in a similar way to that of large numbers. Simply take your small number (Let's use .00053) and count how many decimal places it would take to make it a one digit number, or a number that has a number in ones place, but not the tens place (for our example: 5.3). Then simply take the number you get and multiply it by 10 to the negative power of how many decimal places you had to move to make your number a one digit number (ex. 5.3x10-4).

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    • Missy Mac profile image

      Missy Mac 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      I tutored math to K-12 learners. Scientific notation is a must know for the middle and upper grades. I was very happy to see this article. Great !

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