Digital SAT Math
A guide to radicals and rational exponents on the digital SAT
What are radicals and rational exponents?
Exponential expressions are algebraic expressions with a coefficient, one or more variables, and one or more exponents. For example, in the expression :
- is the coefficient.
- is the base.
- is the exponent.
In , is multiplied by times:
An expression can also be raised to an exponent. For example, for , the expression is multiplied by itself times:
Notice how !
Rational exponents refer to exponents that are/can be represented as fractions: , , and are all considered rational exponents. Radicals are another way to write rational exponents. For example, and are equivalent.
In this lesson, we'll:
- Review the rules of exponent operations with integer exponents
- Apply the rules of exponent operations to rational exponents
- Make connections between equivalent rational and radical expressions
You can learn anything. Let's do this!
What are the rules of exponent operations?
Powers of products & quotients (integer exponents)
The rules of exponent operations
Adding and subtracting exponential expressions
When adding and subtracting exponential expressions, we're essentially combining like terms. That means we can only combine exponential expressions with both the same base and the same exponent.
Multiplying and dividing exponential expressions
When multiplying two exponential expressions with the same base, we keep the base the same, multiply the coefficients, and add the exponents. Similarly, when dividing two exponential expressions with the same base, we keep the base the same and subtract the exponents.
When multiplying or dividing exponential expressions with the same exponent but different bases, we multiply or divide the bases and keep the exponents the same.
Raising an exponential expression to an exponent and change of base
When raising an exponential expression to an exponent, raise the coefficient of the expression to the exponent, keep the base the same, and multiply the two exponents.
When the bases are numbers, we can use a similar rule to change the base of an exponential expression.
This is useful for questions with multiple terms that need to be written in the same base.
A base raised to a negative exponent is equivalent to divided by the base raised to the
of the exponent.
A nonzero base raised to an exponent of is equal to .
How do the rules of exponent operations apply to rational exponents?
Every rule that applies to integer exponents also applies to rational exponents.
try: divide two rational expressions
In order to divide by , we
the coefficients and
the exponents of .
Try: raise an exponential expression to an exponent
To calculate , we
the exponents and .
How are radicals and fractional exponents related?
Rewriting roots as rational exponents
Roots and rational exponents
Squares and square roots are inverse operations: they "undo" each other. For example, if we take the square root of squared, we get .
The reason for this becomes more apparent when we rewrite square root as a fractional exponent: , and .
When rewriting a radical expression as a fractional exponent, any exponent under the radical symbol () becomes the numerator of the fractional exponent, and the value to the left of the radical symbol (e.g., ) becomes the denominator of the fractional exponent. Square root is equivalent to .
All of the rules that apply to exponential expressions with integer exponents also apply to exponential expressions with fractional exponents. Similarly, for radical expressions:
When working with radical expressions with the same radical, we can choose whether to convert to fractional exponents first or multiply what's under the radical symbol first to our advantage.
Try: determine equivalent expressions
Determine whether each of the radical expressions below is equivalent to .
Practice: multiply rational expressions
Which of the following is equivalent to ?
Practice: change bases
If for positive integers and , what is one possible value of ?
Practice: raise to a negative exponent
If , where , what is in terms of ?
Practice: simplify radical expressions
Which of the following is equivalent to the expression above?
Things to remember
Adding and subtracting exponential expressions:
Multiplying and dividing exponential expressions:
Raising an exponential expression to an exponent and change of base:
All of the rules that apply to exponential expressions with integer exponents also apply to exponential expressions with fractional exponents.
Want to join the conversation?
- Can someone fully explain the last question I cannot understand why he just multiplied both numerator and denominator by 2 and how he even got to that point.(1 vote)
- The 2 came from ³√8 and √4
After, you divide the exponents by 3. By the third step you reduce the 2s, leave a y in the denominator and make from x with and exponent of 5/3 to x multiplied by ³√x².(1 vote)