Why Would I Need to Use Scientific Notation?

girl studying scientific notation

Working with numbers that are 1 through 10 is fairly straightforward, but what about a number like 7,489,509,093? Or, how about .00024638? If a number is particularly large or small, it can be much easier to work with when it’s written in scientific notation.

Scientific notation, sometimes also called “standard form,” follows the form “m x 10n” in which “m” is any real number (often a number between 1 and 10) and “n” is a whole number. Take those two numbers mentioned before: They would be 7.489509 x 109 and 2.4638 x 10-4 respectively.

You may be thinking, “Okay, scientific notation a handy way of writing numbers, but why would I ever need to use it?” The fact is, scientific notation proves useful in a number of real-life settings, from school to work, from traveling the world to staying settled and building your own projects. When those situations do come up, a scientific notation calculator and converter can make any task that involves working with obscure numbers, that much easier.

Working with Larger or Smaller Numbers

When you see a long number, whether it’s because it’s so massive or because it’s a super small decimal amount, it’s easy to get lost in the string of digits. This is more true when the number happens to have a lot of zeroes in it, such as 2,000,000,000,000 or 0.0000002. With scientific notation, you can look at such numbers and understand them faster than you would have sitting there counting out all the zeroes.

For example, let’s say you’re discussing or writing down how big the budget was for a major construction project, how many grains of sand are in an area, or how far the earth is from the sun. In all of these situations, the shorthand of scientific notation makes numbers easier to grasp.

To Be Successful on Math Exams

One common situation when you would use scientific notation is on math exams. While scientific notation is often first taught in middle school, the math portions of many high school and college exams have questions involving scientific notation. If you’re considering going to college, you will also need to take the SAT or ACT college entrance test, which is known for having scientific notation questions, too.

These questions may ask test takers to convert a decimal number to scientific notation or vice versa. They may also ask to give an answer to an equation in scientific notation, or to solve an equation written in scientific notation. To be successful in your math exams from primary school through secondary school, it’s important to know how to write, understand, and compute with scientific notation.

guy writing scientific notation for paper

For Your Career

If you’re pursuing a career in math, engineering, or science (or you are working in one of these fields already), chances are you’ll need to use scientific notation in your work. In particular, physicists and astronomers rely on scientific notation on a regular basis as they work with tiny particles all the way up to massive celestial objects and need a system that can easily handle such a scale of numbers. Converting to and from scientific notation, as well as performing calculations with numbers in scientific notation is therefore a useful skill in many scientific and engineering disciplines.

One of the advantages of scientific notation is that it allows you to be precise with your numbers, which is crucial in those industries. Instead of rounding to a number that’s easier to say or shorter to write out, scientific notation gives you the opportunity to be incredibly accurate with your numbers, without them becoming unwieldy.

In Writing Scientific Papers

Since scientific studies often involve very large or very small numbers that also need to be very precise, you might need to use scientific notation when writing a scientific research paper. Consider the alternative: You wouldn’t want to see pages full of numbers with digit after digit, or numbers with seemingly never-ending zeroes if you’re dealing with the mass of atoms or distances in the universe! You also wouldn’t want to significantly round up or round down, as that could seriously alter your findings and credibility.

When writing a scientific research paper or journal article, scientific notation can help you express yourself accurately while also remaining concise.

Converting and Calculating with Scientific Notation

If you find yourself working with scientific notation at school or at work, you can easily convert and calculate the numbers by using a scientific notation calculator and converter.

The calculator portion of the scientific notation calculator allows you to add, subtract, multiply, and divide numbers in their exponential notation form so you don’t have to convert them to their full digit form to perform algebraic equations. Otherwise, if you simply need to convert between a decimal and a scientific number, then the scientific notation converter can do that, too.

All in all, scientific notation is a convenient way of writing and working with very large or very small numbers. While it may seem hard to imagine using it in everyday life, scientific notation is useful for those completing academic and professional work in math and science. For anyone studying or working in these fields, a scientific notation calculator and converter makes using this shorthand even easier.

This entry was posted in Career and tagged , , . By Cindy Brzostowski