The LessonScientific notation is a way of writing a number. In scientific notation, a number is written as a number between 1 and 10 multiplied by a power of 10. The number below is written in scientific notation. It is said as "1.2 times 10 to the 3".
Dictionary DefinitionThe Oxford English Dictionary defines scientific notation as "a system of representing some given number as a product of a number with an absolute value between 1 and 10 and a power of 10 (as 2 × 102 for 200)"
Understanding Scientific NotationA number represented in scientific notation is written as a number between 1 and 10 multiplied by a power of 10. The power of 10 is written as a 10 with a raised number by its side. The raised number is called an exponent.
It tells you how many times the 10 is multiplied by itself, or how many 0s there are after the 1.
1.2 × 103 = 1.2 × 10 × 10 × 10 = 1.2 × 1,000So 1.2 × 103 represents the number given by 1.2 × 1000, which is 1,200.
1.2 × 103 = 1,200
Why Is Scientific Notation Useful?Scientific notation is useful because it allows us to write very large or very small numbers in a shorter, standard way. Some examples of numbers written in scientific notation are shown below, along with the numbers written in full. Notice that it can save you writing lots of 0s.
When numbers are very small (less than 1), we can also save writing 0s by using scientific notation. In this case, the power of 10 can has a negative exponent:
Converting a Number into Scientific NotationScientific notation is a useful way to write long numbers.
To convert the number to scientific notation, we have to move the decimal point to the right of the first digit. Even though it isn't written, the decimal point is at the end of the number. Count how many places it has to move left so it is to the right of the first digit (1):
The decimal point has to be moved 5 places to the left to make 1.23. The number is written as 1.23 × 105.
Read more about converting numbers to scientific notation
Converting Scientific Notation to a NumberWhen you see a number written in scientific notation, you must know what number it represents.
To convert scientific notation to a number, we have to move the decimal point right. The exponent of the power of 10 is 5 so the decimal point needs to be moved 5 places. You will need to add 0s so that the decimal point can be moved:
The decimal point has to be moved 5 places to the right to make 123,000.
Read more about converting scientific notation to numbers
Lesson SlidesThe slider below gives more information about powers of 10. Open the slider in a new tab
Number Between 1 and 10The number in scientific notation (that multiplies the power of 10) is between 1 and 10. It can include 1, but not 10.
Powers of 10A power of 10 is 10 raised to a exponent. For example, 102 is a power of 10. The small 2 written beside the 10 means it is raised to an exponent of 2. This means 10 is multiplied by itself 2 times.
102 = 10 × 10The answer will have 2 0s after the 1:
102 = 100
Other Ways of Writing Scientific NotationTo write scientific notation on a keyboard, the ^ symbol is used for the exponent of 10 (102 = 10^2):
5.2 × 103 = 5.2 × 10^3On a calculator, the E symbol is used to represent a power of 10 (×102 = E2):
5.2 × 103 = 5.2E3
Engineering NotationEngineering notation is similar to scientific notation, except the number is limited between 1 and 1,000, and the exponent of the power of 10 must be a multiple of 3.
1,200 = 1.2 × 103 12,000 = 12 × 103 120,000 = 120 × 103 1,200,000 = 1.2 × 106 1,200,000,000 = 1.2 × 109