What Does a Negative Exponent Mean When Used in Scientific Notation?

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Negative exponents, when used in scientific notation, are typically used to denote a value. Find out what a negative exponent means when used in scientific notation with help from an experienced mathematics educator in this free video clip.

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Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Marija, and today I'm going to tell you what a negative exponent means when it's used in scientific notation. I have five times ten to the negative third power this is a number written in scientific notation and what that negative exponent is going to tell me is to move to the left so negative indicates left and it's going to tell me how many spaces. So I'm going left three spaces. So I take that number five and the decimal in the five right now is right after it and I'm going to move it three spaces left. One, two, three. And my new decimal is going to be here. And now any space that's blank I'm going to go ahead and fill in with zeros so that my new number is .005. So the number five times ten to the negative third power in scientific notation is equivalent to .005 in standard notation. So the negative exponent always indicates that your number is going to be small. It's going to be a smaller number, smaller than one. It tells you to go left because it's negative and it tells you how many spaces to go left depending on what the digit is. And that's what a negative number means in scientific notation.


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