Powers of Ten Day: Understanding Exponents

Powers of Ten Day: Understanding Exponents

Powers of Ten Day: Understanding Exponents

An exponent is a person who supports an idea or theory and tries to persuade people of its truth or benefits.

I forgot to post this old 1977 video on October 10, “Powers of Ten Day,” but if you haven’t seen it (or haven’t seen it in awhile), it’s worth a few minutes of your time.

Most people don’t have accurate intuition about exponents. A common example when talking about government budgets is that people sometimes tend to mix up “millions,” “billions,” and “trillions.” If you are at the grocery story and the checkout clerk mistakenly charged me $36 for a gallon of milk–that is, 10 times the typical price–you would surely notice. If you were charged $360 for a gallon of milk–100 times the usual price, chances are good that you would notice. But when when people misspeak in a way that confuses millions and billions, they are getting confused between two measured that differ by a factor of 1,000, like being charge $3,600 for a gallon of milk and not really noticing. The video emphasizes powers of ten in the physical world, and thus offers a non-algebraic way to convey the power of exponents.


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Timothy Taylor

Global Economy Expert

Timothy Taylor is an American economist. He is managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, a quarterly academic journal produced at Macalester College and published by the American Economic Association. Taylor received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Haverford College and a master's degree in economics from Stanford University. At Stanford, he was winner of the award for excellent teaching in a large class (more than 30 students) given by the Associated Students of Stanford University. At Minnesota, he was named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of Economics and voted Teacher of the Year by the master's degree students at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Taylor has been a guest speaker for groups of teachers of high school economics, visiting diplomats from eastern Europe, talk-radio shows, and community groups. From 1989 to 1997, Professor Taylor wrote an economics opinion column for the San Jose Mercury-News. He has published multiple lectures on economics through The Teaching Company. With Rudolph Penner and Isabel Sawhill, he is co-author of Updating America's Social Contract (2000), whose first chapter provided an early radical centrist perspective, "An Agenda for the Radical Middle". Taylor is also the author of The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works, published by the Penguin Group in 2012. The fourth edition of Taylor's Principles of Economics textbook was published by Textbook Media in 2017.


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