Exponents, Scientific Notation, and Numeral Systems
— Using the Short Subject Powers of Ten or Film Clips from Cosmic Voyage
Subject: Math and Science & Technology — Exponents, Powers of Ten, Scientific Notation; Numeral Systems;
Ages: 12+; Middle and High School;
Note: There are two films that show the amazing changes which occur when a zero is added to the end of a number or a decimal point moved to the left. The first is the 1977 short subject entitled Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames. It was the first film to use shots of the same scene at increasing or decreasing distances to demonstrate the tremendous power of exponential change. The Eames website also features an interactive tool that allows the viewer to select an order of magnitude and then see the corresponding picture from the video.
The makers of Cosmic Voyage copied and adapted the concept from Powers of Ten. Three short clips from the movie provide a video similar to the original film.
This Snippet Lesson Plan provides an explanation and links to websites which will help teachers illustrate the concepts of exponents, scientific notation, and numeral systems.
Length: Film Clips: Powers of Ten: 9 minutes; Cosmic Voyage: Approximately 10 minutes in two clips; Lesson: Not Applicable – the film clips and supplemental materials presented in this Snippet Lesson Plan are designed to supplement teachers' existing lesson plans on the topics covered.
Excerpts from the Snippet Lesson Plan
Learner Outcomes/Objectives: Students will have a vibrant graphic sense of the power of exponential increase and decrease, the vast distances of space, and the relatively vast distances of atomic spaces. They will be able to relate this to place value notation and they will be introduced to scientific notation. Students will be introduced to several different numeral systems.
Rationale: The meaning of exponents and scientific notation, as well as an understanding of their ability to economically describe the physical universe, are central to understanding math and science. Visual presentation of these concepts is the easiest way to teach them.
Description of the Film Clips: Viewers are taken on a journey through the distances of space and into the heart of matter, changing magnification of each scene by a factor of ten.
[The complete Snippet Lesson Plan provides a clear description of place value, exponents, scientific notation and numeral systems, including hexadecimal and binary systems. It also contains the exact location of the film clip in Cosmic Voyage, step-by-step instructions for presenting the clips, and links to web sites that assist in clearly explaining the concepts covered.]
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