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What are some tips for teaching exponents?

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Quick Answer

Focus on the properties of exponents when providing instruction to students. Provide students with the background of each important exponentiation rule using both general algebraic forms and examples involving numerals.

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Full Answer

Critical to a strong understanding of exponents is the idea that exponentiation refers to repeated multiplication. When a number a is raised to the b power, one is multiplying a by itself b times. For instance, 5 raised to the third power is 5 times 5 times 5 or 125. Relating abstract mathematical ideas to this key fact is a helpful way to ensure students are able to understand and work with exponents.

Consider giving examples of each exponentiation rule separately. For the product rule, show how a number raised to a certain power times the same number raised to a different power is equivalent to the original number raised to the sum of the two powers. Provide the explanation step-by-step on the chalkboard, asking questions to students to ensure comprehension. As an alternative, play a quality video tutorial clip to the class, pausing and repeating as necessary if students have questions. For skill practice, have students solve simple problems in class. Use proven teaching strategies such as dividing the class into small groups and having each group work a problem. Each group then presents their solution to another group or the class as a whole. Give some homework problems to help students assimilate the material and further develop their proficiency with exponents.

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