**by Jennifer M. Wenner, Geology Department, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh**

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## What is clinical notation?

The principle of very big or very tiny numbers is something that is challenging for many students to comprehend. In general, students have actually difficulty via 2 points when handling numbers that have actually even more zeros (either prior to OR after the decimal point) than they are provided to. They frequently carry out not understand:

that "big" and "small" are relative terms, the idea of "order of magnitude"Scientific notation is a means to assess the order of magnitude and also to visually decrease the zeros that the student sees. It likewise might aid students to compare extremely big (or incredibly small numbers) But students still have actually little bit intuition about scientific notation. Teaching them to acknowledge that clinical notation is a short hand method to much better understand significant and also tiny numbers have the right to be useful to them in all aspects of their scholastic career.

It seems prefer many job-related to keep track of all those zeros. Fortunately, we can conveniently save track of zeros and compare the size of numbers through clinical notation.

Scientific notation permits us to reduce the number of zeros that we watch while still keeping track of them for us. For example the age of the Earth (see above) have the right to be composed as 4.6 X 109 years. This suggests that this number has actually 9 places after the decimal area - filled through zeros unmuch less a number comes after the decimal once writing scientific notation. So 4.6 X 109 years represents 4600000000 years.

Very small numbers use the very same form of notation just the exponent on the 10 is normally an adverse number. For example, 0.00000000000000000000000000166 kg (the weight of one atomic mass unit (a.m.u.)) would be created 1.66 x 10-27 making use of scientific notation. A negative number after the 10 suggests that we count locations before the decimal allude in the clinical notation. You can count exactly how many kind of numbers are between the decimal allude in the initially number and also the second number and it have to equal 27.

The nice point about scientific notation is that it also tells us somepoint about significant numbers.

Tbelow are a number of geologic contexts in which huge (and small) numbers and also scientific notation come up. Some of them include: The metric device

Since everyone has different ways of finding out, mathematicians have characterized a number of means that quantitative concepts have the right to be represented to individuals. Here are some methods that massive numbers and also scientific notation can be represented.

You watching: How small is an atom in scientific notation

**Verbal representation**

We recurrent big (and also small) numbers with modifiers that tell us just how many type of zeros are attached to the number. One million (1. x 106) tells us that the decimal (after the 1) moves 6 places to the best (1,000,000.). One thousandth (1. x 10-3) tells us that the decimal moves 3 spaces to the left (0.001).

Show list of numbers and their modifiers

Hide

number | power of ten | modifier word |

0.000001 | 10-6 | millionths |

0.0001 | 10-4 | |

0.001 | 10-3 | thousandths |

0.01 | 10-2 | hundreths |

0.1 | 10-1 | tenths |

1 | 100 | |

10 | 101 | |

100 | 102 | hundred |

1,000 | 103 | thousand |

1,000,000 | 106 | million |

1,000,000,000 | 109 | billion |

1,000,000,000,000 | 1012 | trillion |

**4.5 X 109 yrs**or (on a calculator)

**4.5E9 yrs**(1 billion in scientific notation suggests 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10!)

Although many type of topics in geoscience use scientific notation, graphical representations are often plotted on logarithmic scales as in the electromagnetic spectrum below.

Tbelow are many reasons for this - the majority of importantly, it takes up much less space - but a log scale does not offer a feeling of true scale:

Geologic timeis an excellent conmessage in which to talk around huge numbers and to give a feeling of scale. We have actually the geologic time range to provide students a feeling of what components of "time" we recognize the the majority of about. And just how big "time" really is. Here is a geologic time scale that offers a feeling of scale

It is exciting to note that the time durations that we recognize the most around (the Cenozoic, Mesozoic and also Paleozoic) only comprise a little fractivity of the entirety of geologic time!

There are a number of analogies for thinking around substantial numbers. Students (particularly in entry-level classes) frequently relate well to analogies through money:

**Money analogies:**A regional radio station is tring to collect a million pennies for a worthy cause. How many dollars is this?

**Answer:**$10,000. You have just won a challenge. The prize is that you will certainly obtain $1 bills from a financial institution teller at the price of 1 per second for as long as you can stand also tbelow taking them (no bathroom breaks, no napping, etc.). How long will certainly you need to stand tright here to become a millionaire?

**Answer:**around 12 days.

Students have a number of devices that can be used to assist them end up being even more acquainted with both clinical notation and incredibly huge and also incredibly little numbers. Calculators have the right to be put up to display screen scientific notation. Spreadsheet programs have the right to tabulate data, expressing it in a variety of forms. Calculators:

Scientific notation offers a terrific way for students to become familiar with their (probably new) calculators. Many students do not recognize what clinical notation is and have little intuition about it. Even fewer really recognize exactly how to use their calculators to expush it. Often I view students simply ignoring "the little bit number in the upper right" and also so their answer is off by orders of magnitude. Have students number out exactly how to make their calculators expush clinical notation. A quick exercise to perform in course is have them multiply some numbers in scientific notation on their calculator and also then write the answer in numerical notation.

Many spreadsheets deserve to be formatted to display screen numbers numerically and in clinical notation. Showing students a table of these data expressed both ways might help them to get a feeling of what is happening "in their calculators" once numbers are presented in clinical notation. These numbers can also be plotted so that students deserve to obtain a sense of scale.

Mathematicians also show that students learn quantitative principles much better once they work in groups and revisit a idea on more than sooner or later. Because of this, as soon as stating quantitative concepts in entry-level geoscientific research courses, have students comment on or practice the ideas together. Also, make certain that you either incorporate troubles that may be extfinished over even more than one class duration or revisit the principle on many occasions.

See more: Prentice Hall Human Biology And Health And Human Performance

Very massive and incredibly tiny numbers come up over and over in introductory geoscience: Geologic time, radiometric dating, unit conversions (specifically metric), and so on When each new topic is introduced, make certain to suggest out that this is not brand-new material, it's just a matter of remembering.

**MathWorld** has actually a much more mathematical explacountry (even more info) of clinical notation through a link to significant digits (more info) .