Exploring Exponents

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SWBAT identify the parts of an exponent and find the value of each expression including variables and fractions through cooperative learning strategies.

Big Idea

Learning about exponents helps students think about and understand expressions.


15 minutes

Since this is the beginning of a new unit, I want to find out what students know about the vocabulary that goes along with expressions.  I will be having them complete a vocabulary rating inventory sheet.  This sheet has the important vocabulary for this unit.  Students will look at the vocabulary words and make a decision on how much they know about each word.  As you move through the unit, have students re-visit the words to see if they have moved along on the inventory sheet.  Students should place this in front of the notes for this unit.

To help students out with this rating scale, read the words aloud as the students complete the inventory for each word.  This inventory supports mathematical practices 1 and 6.  Students need to explain and ask “does this make sense”.  Also, using vocabulary accurately and precisely in their communications.

Tools:  Vocabulary Rating Inventory for the unit on Expressions

Identifying the Parts

15 minutes

For this section, I want the students to recognize and understand the parts of an exponent.  I’ve included whole number bases, fraction bases, and variable bases.  These are all part of what they need to understand for the common core.   I will work through the problems with the students because each one is a little different.  I will be sure to explain the meaning of finding the value and repeated factor.  Remind students that a factor is a number multiplied by another number.  In this case, the exponent tells the base (factor) how many times it needs to be multiplied.  As we get further along in the demonstration, I will ask the students to identify the parts as part of my questioning.  (SMP 1 and 2) It will be important to remember to stress the appropriate reading of to the second power (squared) and to the third power (cubed). (MP 6)

Writing in Exponential Form

15 minutes

During this section students will be looking at taking the repeated factor and putting them in to the base and exponent form.  I like to tell the kids, in a big huge voice (and putting my arms out wide) “it’s a big long word”, then in a small voice “for a tiny little answer”(bringing my hands together to show small)!

In this section, I also used whole numbers, fractions, and variables for the repeated factors (SMP 1 and 2)  

White board show down

15 minutes

I want the students to use white boards to represent their answers.  This will give me a good indication who is getting it and who is not.  I have problems involving identifying the parts, finding the value and writing in exponential form.  If you get a good feel that the students are getting it, there is no need to do every problem.  The final two problems will have the students perform an addition operation and make a comparison to decide which expression is larger.  Students can use peer tutors to help if they are struggling to find a solution (SMP 1,2,3)

Exponents Round table

15 minutes

The students will be using a Roundtable to solve problems involving exponents.  Students will be responsible for working out their own problem and checking the problem of a tablemate. (SMP 1,2,3,6)


10 minutes

Students will be completing a Connect 3, using the words base, exponent, and exponential form. A connect 3 has the students making a connection between 3 vocabulary words.  Each connecting line needs a one sentence summary and in the middle, the students will complete a brief summary of their learning.  (SMP 1 and 6)  If students have time, have them share their connections with a tablemate.