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How do you divide scientific notation?

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Quick Answer

To divide numbers in scientific notation, you need to divide the coefficients and subtract the exponents. Scientific notation is a simple way to express large or small numbers, as coefficients between 1 and 10 are multiplied by the appropriate power of 10 to equal the original number.

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Full Answer

  1. Divide the coefficients

    The coefficient is the decimal number at the front of the figure expressed in scientific notation. For example, 124,000 expressed in scientific notation would be 1.24 * 10^5, and the coefficient is 1.24. Assume you're dividing 2.56 * 10^7 by 1.28 * 10^2. This means you first divide 2.56 by 1.28, leaving you with 2 as the coefficient.

  2. Subtract the exponents

    As long as the bases are the same, division of exponents in scientific notation is simply a matter of subtracting the digits used to indicate the value of the exponents. All bases in scientific notation are 10, so you can subtract these exponents. For example, 10^7 divided by 10^2 is 10^5.

  3. Adjust the decimal if necessary

    For a number to be in proper scientific notation, the coefficient must be between 1 and 10. Otherwise, you have to move the decimal to the right or the left, adjusting the exponent accordingly.

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