What Is an Exponent?
An exponent tells you how many times a number (or other quantity) is multiplied by itself.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines an exponent as "a symbol denoting the number of times a particular quantity is to be taken as a factor to produce the power indicated."
It is easier to understand exponents with an example.
Imagine we wanted to multiply 3 by itself 2 times. We would write 3 with a small 2 written to the right and above it: 32.
Powers, Bases and Exponents
Real Examples of an Exponent
Some real examples of exponents are given below.
The power below has an exponent of 3:
The power below has an exponent of 4:
The exponent can also be a letter. The power below has an exponent of n:
Exponents can also be a negative number.
A negative exponent tells you how many times to divide 1 by the number. For example, 3−2 means divide 1 by 3, 2 times:
A negative exponent means put the base under 1 (or turn it upside-down if the base is a fraction), and make the exponent positive.
An exponent can be a fraction.
A fractional exponent means finding a root of a number.
For example, 3½ means the square root of 3: