Exploring Exponents: What Is an Exponent and What Does It Mean?

Contributor: Briana Pincherri. Lesson ID: 11244

Don't be an opponent of exponents if you don't understand them; they help you with longer math problems! "Base" your understanding on this lesson, including video and online practice! Don't be square!


Middle School

learning style
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Why do some numbers in math look like a BIG number with a little mini number next to it in the upper-right corner? Does it mean the font size just wasn't used correctly on the problem? NO! That little number is actually a clue that tells you how many times to multiply the big number by itself. It's called an exponent (or power), and learning the proper way to solve exponents is very helpful in higher-level math!

When you see a number with a small number in the upper right corner, this is an example of an exponent.

The exponent (or little number) tells you how many times to multiply the big number times itself.

Here are two examples:




3 x 3







2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2





KEY: The exponent is NOT the big number times the small number, but instead it stands for how many times to multiply the big number times itself. If you find a way to remember that now, it will help immensely, because that is the number-one mistake made with exponents!

Let's look at this a little more in depth. While you watch Math Antics - Intro To Exponents (aka Indices), please fill in the vocabulary or answer the questions below on a separate piece of paper. This video goes in a bit more detail on exponents:


  1. Define base.
  2. Define exponent.
  3. What is this symbol called ^?
  4. Why would you use it?
  5. What is another way to say 3 to the 2nd power?
  6. What is another way to say 3 to the 3rd power?

Let's head to the next section to check your answers and try a few practice problems with exponents.

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