A Guide to Working with Exponents, Radicals, and Absolute Value

By Mark Zegarelli

Part of Basic Math & Pre-Algebra For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Exponents, radicals, and absolute value are mathematical operations that go beyond addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They are useful in more advanced math, such as algebra, but they also have real-world applications, especially in geometry and measurement.

Exponents (powers) are repeated multiplication: When you raise a number to the power of an exponent, you multiply that number by itself the number of times indicated by the exponent. For example:

72 = 7 × 7 = 49

25 = 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 = 32

Square roots (radicals) are the inverse of exponent 2 — that is, the number that, when multiplied by itself, gives you the indicated value.

Absolute value is the positive value of a number — that is, the value of a negative number when you drop the minus sign. For example:

Absolute value is used to describe numbers that are always positive, such as the distance between two points or the area inside a polygon.