What is an Exponent?

As we begin our study of pre-algebra and algebraic expressions, you will need to learn and understand the use of exponents. So, let's begin by defining the term exponent.

An exponent is a number (small and raised) that represents the "shortcut method" to showing how many times a number is multiplied by itself.

That sounds complicated, so let's look at a few examples:

Example 1

Example 2

Special Exponents

When a power has an exponent of 2, it can be read as "to the second power" OR "squared".

52 is read as: "5 to the second power" OR "5 squared".

When a power has an exponent of 3, it can be read as "to the third power" OR "cubed".

53 is read as: "5 to the third power" OR "5 cubed."

Example 3

Write the product as a power.

With this direction, you are working backwards and writing the product (multiplication problem) as a power.

Summing it up

When working with powers, you have a base number. That base number is then raised to a "power" (this is the exponent). The exponent tells you how many times to multiply the base by itself.

So, don't let exponents intimidate you - all you really need to know is how to multiply!

Check out the next lesson on the order of operations to see how powers are calculated in a numerical expression.

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