A View from the Back of the Envelope top

Scientific Notation
How to simplify a number
Exponential Notation
Exponential notation with significant figures.

"Scientific notation"

  1. is exponential notation,
  2. but leaves the decimal in a standard place
    (After the first non-zero digit (ie, one can have 1. or 2. or 3. or 9. , but never 12. or 0.1))
  3. and then uses zeros to indicate significant figures.

The less restrictive exponential notation is more common on the back of the envelope.


An Exponential Notation Meta Page (and scientific notation too)
IEER's Scientific Notation and practice sheet.
Jim Wilson's Scientific Notation
Scientific Notation and Significant Figures
Powers of Ten, Prefixes, Basic Calculator Usage.


Caveat, caveat. Actually, the phrase "scientific notation" is rarely heard outside of the classroom. "Exponential notation" seems to be used to name both versions (both free-form and cannonicalized), with only context indicating which is intended. If only to make teaching simpler, I leave "scientific notation" its narrow meaning, and use "exponential notation" as a strictly more general catagory.

There is probably an SI standard somewhere online which says what the "right thing" is...

A View from the Back of the Envelope
Comments encouraged. - Mitchell N Charity <mcharity@lcs.mit.edu>)

Perhaps move links to exp note page?



  2003-Feb-03  Fixed 3 links.  Added this History.
  mid 1990's   Created.