Education Technology

Expressions and Equations / What is an Exponent?

Grade Level 6,7
Activity 1 of 18
This lesson allows students to investigate exponents and learn how to use exponents as a compact way to write expressions involving whole number multiplication.

Planning and Resources

Students should be able to use and interpret the definition of an exponent.  They create equivalent numerical multiplication expressions using whole number exponents.


Standard: Search Standards Alignment


Lesson Snapshot


This lesson focuses on how the definition can be used in a variety of situations to make sense of the computations: ab, (a*c)b, abc and in particular, allows students to investigate whether exponents “distribute” over operations other than multiplication.

What to look for

Common misconceptions include not understanding which element in the expression is the base of the exponent, multiplying the exponent and the base, and reversing the role of the base and the exponent.

Sample Assessment

What is the value of (3.4)( 102 )?
a. 3.4   b. 34  c. 340  d. 3400

Answer: c. 340

The Big Idea

Any sequence of multiplications may be calculated in any order and the numbers may be grouped together any way.

What are the students doing?

They explore different sets of factors that produce the same result and consider whether an exponent can “distribute” over any operation.

What is the teacher doing?

Encourage students to explore equivalent ways of writing numerical expressions involving exponents.