Q&A #3938

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Powers of ten in our everyday lives

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From: Loyd

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2011040411:10:24
Subject: Powers of ten for big numbers

With budget deficits of 1.4 trillion more or less one often hears 
statements that this amounts to a million or more per person in the
US.  Of course that is not true.  

People have problems with big numbers for some reason.  So, here is an
example of how to get the answer.  

Remember that thousands have three zeros, millions have 6 zeros,
billions have 9 zeros and trillions have 12 zeros. 

There are 310,000 000 or three hundred and ten million people in the
US (more or less)  Write that as 310^6 or 3.10 ^8.  I will use 310^6. 
Then express 1.4 trillion as 1.4^12.  Using a scientific calculator,

------- = $4,516 rounded to the nearest dollar.  

Our debt is about 14 trillion so that answer will be ten times larger
than the dificit.

Of course using a scientific calculator you would express the problem
using the Exp key which would give for the debt:

14 Exp 12
-------    = $45,161 per person, to the nearest dollar. 
310 Exp 6

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