National Wildfire Coordinating Group

1.7 Powers and Roots


When a number is multiplied by itself several times, instead of writing each repetition of the multiplication, it is easier to use exponential notation. For example, 12 × 12 × 12 × 12 × 12 × 12 would be 12 multiplied to itself 6 times or 126. The number being multiplied is called the base and the number of times it is multiplied by itself is called the exponent. In the above case, the base is 12 and the exponent is 6. When a number has an exponent of 2, it is said to be squared. When the exponent is 3, the number is said to be cubed. When the exponent is 4, the number is expressed as the base to the fourth power, and so on.

Example 1 - Write 6 × 6 × 6 in exponential notation and in words. Solve.

6 × 6 × 6 = "six cubed" or 63. 63 = 216.


Powers can also be worked backwards to find the square root of the number. The number whose root you want to find will appear under a square root sign: √x. The square root of a number x is the number that would have to be squared in order to get x.

For example, the square root of 4 would be 2, since 22 = 4.

Example 2 - Find √49

√49 = 7 because 7 × 7 = 49

Perfect squares are numbers having a square root that is an integer. Not all numbers are perfect squares. In these situations, divide to see whether the number can be separated into two factors: the first factor is a number that is a perfect square while the rest stays as a square root.

Example 3  - Find √18
Divide into √(9x2). The square root of 9 is an integer (3), so it can be taken outside of the square root symbol. The 2 remains under the square root symbol, because it is not a perfect square. √18 = 3 × √ 2.