Q&A #2601

Base 2 numbers

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From: Suzanne A. (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Nov 20, 1999 at 12:19:02
Subject: Re: Base 2 numbers

Dear Gail, I guess what we can do is try to explain what base 2 means to you and then you will be able to help your child? Sometimes it's fun to learn something new with your child because not only can you help them understand, but they can help you understand, too! Just to give you a little introduction - Normally we work in a base 10 system. That just means that we have the numerals 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and to represent the next number we combine the 1 and the 0. Another way to think about it is, if we take any number, say 364 we can think of it like this: 3 x 100 + 6 x 10 + 4 Base 2 is another story, however. In base two we only have two numerals to represent our number. The numerals are 0 and 1. Base 2 is also often called the binary system. Computers use this system to operate and I have often had it explained to me in terms of a light switch - it is either in the "on" or the "off" position. It ends up that binary numbers are quite long since you use up the possibilities quite quickly and you continue to have to go to the next place to represent the number! There is a great Ask Dr. Math FAQ that has links to a variety of information pages on bases. I suggest you browse through them to read about bases, converting between one base to another, and doing a variety of operations in other bases. It is here: Number Bases http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.bases.html Other pages that have information to help you include: Different Ways to Represent Numbers http://www.cs.indiana.edu/classes/h212-lake/number_representations/index.html Concepts of Adding in Base 2 http://mathforum.org/dr.math/problems/ross8.18.98.html Addition and Multiplication Tables in Various Bases http://cut-the-knot.com/blue/SysTable.html I hope that helps. -Suzanne A., for the Teacher2Teacher service

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