Scientific notation is a way of writing numbers that are too big or too small to be conveniently written in decimal form. Scientific notation has a number of useful properties and is commonly used in calculators and by scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

In scientific notation all numbers are written in the form of

a \times 10^b

(a times ten raised to the power of b), where the exponent b is an integer, and the coefficient a is any real number (however, see normalized notation below), called the significandor mantissa. The term “mantissa” may cause confusion, however, because it can also refer to the fractional part of the common logarithm. If the number is negative then a minus sign precedes a (as in ordinary decimal notation).

Standard decimal notation Normalized scientific notation
2 2×100
300 3×102
4,321.768 4.321768×103
−53,000 −5.3×104
6,720,000,000 6.72×109
0.2 2×10−1
0.000 000 007 51 7.51×10−9

Decimal floating point is a computer arithmetic system closely related to scientific notation.


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