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8.3: Zero, Negative, and Fractional Exponents

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

In the previous lessons, we have dealt with powers that are positive whole numbers. In this lesson, you will learn how to solve expressions when the exponent is zero, negative, or a fractional number.

Exponents of Zero: For all real numbers χ,χ0,χ0=1.

Example: χ4χ4=χ44=χ0=1. This example is simplified using the Quotient of Powers Property.

Simplifying Expressions with Negative Exponents

The next objective is negative exponents. When we use the quotient rule and we subtract a greater number from a smaller number, the answer will become negative. The variable and the power will be moved to the denominator of a fraction. You will learn how to write this in an expression.

Example: x4x6=x46=x2=1x2. Another way to look at this is χχχχχχχχχχ. The four χs on top will cancel out with four χs on bottom. This will leave two χs remaining on the bottom, which makes your answer look like 1χ2.

Negative Power Rule for Exponents: 1χn=χn where χ0

Example: χ6γ2=1χ61γ2=1χ6γ2. The negative power rule for exponents is applied to both variables separately in this example.

Multimedia Link: For more help with these types of exponents, watch this http://www.phschool.com/atschool/academy123/english/academy123_content/wl-book-demo/ph-241s.html - PH School video or visit the http://www.mathsisfun.com/algebra/negative-exponents.html - mathisfun website.

Example 1: Write the following expressions without fractions.

(a) 2x2

(b) x2y3


(a) 2x2=2x2

(b) x2y3=x2y3

Notice in Example 1(a), the number 2 is in the numerator. This number is multiplied with χ2. It could also look like this, 21χ2 to be better understood.

Simplifying Expressions with Fractional Exponents

The next objective is to be able to use fractions as exponents in an expression.

Roots as Fractional Exponents: anm=anm

Example: a=a12,a3=a13,a25=(a2)15=a25=a25

Example 2: Simplify the following expressions.

(a) χ3

(b) χ34


(a) χ13

(b) χ34

It is important when evaluating expressions that you remember the Order of Operations. Evaluate what is inside the parentheses, then evaluate the exponents, then perform multiplication/division from left to right, then perform addition/subtraction from left to right.

Example 3: Evaluate the following expression.

(a) 352105+1

Solution: 352105+1=325105+1=7550+1=26

Practice Set

Sample explanations for some of the practice exercises below are available by viewing the following video. Note that there is not always a match between the number of the practice exercise in the video and the number of the practice exercise listed in the following exercise set.  However, the practice exercise is the same in both.

CK-12 Basic Algebra: Zero, Negative, and Fractional Exponents (14:04)

Simplify the following expressions. Be sure the final answer includes only positive exponents.

  1. x1y2
  2. x4
  3. x3x7
  4. 1x
  5. 2x2
  6. x2y3
  7. 3xy
  8. 3x3
  9. a2b3c1
  10. 4x1y3
  11. 2x2y3
  12. a12a13
  13. (a13)2
  14. a52a12
  15. (x2y3)13
  16. x3y5z7
  17. (x12y23)(x2y13)
  18. (ab)2
  19. (3a2b2c3)3
  20. x3x3

Simplify the following expressions without any fractions in the answer.

  1. a3(a5)a6
  2. 5x6y2x8y
  3. (4ab6)3(ab)5
  4. 3xy133
  5. 4a2b32a5b
  6. (x3y2)3x2y4
  7. (ab2b3)2
  8. x3y2x2y2
  9. 3x2y32xy12
  10. (3x3)(4x4)(2y)2
  11. a2b3c1
  12. x12y52x32y32

Evaluate the following expressions to a single number.

  1. 32
  2. (6.2)0
  3. 8486
  4. (1612)3
  5. 50
  6. 72
  7. (23)3
  8. 33
  9. 1612
  10. 813

In 43 – 45, evaluate the expression for x=2,y=1,z=3.

  1. 2x23y3+4z
  2. (x2y2)2
  3. (3x2y54z)2
  4. Evaluate x24x3y44y2 if x=2 and y=1.
  5. Evaluate a4(b2)3+2ab if a=2 and b=1.
  6. Evaluate 5x22y3+3z if x=3, y=2, and z=4.
  7. Evaluate (a2b3)2 if a=5 and b=3.
  8. Evaluate 355105+1.
  9. Evaluate 24235232.
  10. Evaluate (3322)234.

Mixed Review

  1. A quiz has ten questions: 7 true/false and 3 multiple choice. The multiple choice questions each have four options. How many ways can the test be answered?
  2. Simplify 3a4b4a3b4.
  3. Simplify (x4y2xy0)5.
  4. Simplify v2vu2u1v4.
  5. Solve for n:6(4n+3)=n+32.

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