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# What is an exponent in terms of algebra?

An exponent is actually raising a number to a certain power; this is written as a superscript to the right of a real number, such as 34, expressed as “three raised to the fourth power,” or “three with an exponent of four.” (For more information on exponents, see “Math Basics.”) The exponent represents the number of times a number is being multiplied. The above example actually means “3 × 3 × 3 × 3,” which is equal to 81. The powers can be an integer (negative or positive numbers), real number, or even a complex number. This can also be thought of as taking the quantity b, the base number, to the power of another quantity often called e, the exponent. (In many computer-oriented texts, this is written as be.)

Exponents are important to algebra as they are often included in most algebraic equations. The process of performing the operation of raising to a power is known as exponentiation. Exponents are also often associated with functions. For example, in the function f(x) = x2, the 2 is the exponent.

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