How to Remember Exponent Rules without Brain Ooze

This post is by request from @corrincross.

Exponent rules are hard. Well, they are hard to remember, anyhow. But there’s an easy way that won’t make your brain ooze – and that’s doing a mini-experiment each time you have to deal with them.

First remember what an exponent really is. It’s a shortcut for multiplication. Check it out:

Notice that there are really only two rules that get you screwed up: when to multiply the tiny buggers and when to add them. Here’s how I teach this (and how I remember it myself!):

So the new rules are  and .

And then what about those negative exponents? Again, you can’t remember a rule unless you remember what they heck is really going on. We go back to adding in this video to explain the similarity between the two shortcuts of multiplication and exponents:

Can you use this in your classrooms? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Thanks to Corrin Cross (@corrincross) for requesting this post. Corrin is a Secondary Ed student with a math major and music minor at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada.


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