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, divide: 1.4^12 ------- = $4,516 rounded to the nearest dollar. 310^6 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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