#### Article Title

#### Abstract / Synopsis

While teaching college-level mathematics (from College Algebra to Calculus to Abstract Algebra), I have observed that students are often uncomfortable using negative exponents in calculations. I believe the fault partially lies in the manner in which negative exponents are taught in Algebra 1 or Algebra 2 courses, especially in rigid instructions always to write answers using only positive exponents. After reviewing a sample of algebra texts used in the United States over the last two centuries, it appears that while attitudes toward negative exponents have varied from author to author over time, the current trend is to declare explicitly that an expression is not simplified if it contains negative exponents. I believe that this negative attitude toward negative exponents is at least somewhat to blame for students of Calculus and higher mathematics being less able to solve problems that require conversion between positive and negative exponents, as their algebraic instruction has only taught them to convert negative exponents to positive.

#### DOI

10.5642/jhummath.201401.08

#### Rights Information

© Geoffrey D. Dietz

#### Recommended Citation

Dietz, G.
D.
"What is So Negative About Negative Exponents?," *Journal of Humanistic Mathematics*, Volume 4
Issue 1
(January 2014), pages 124-135.
DOI: 10.5642/jhummath.201401.08
. Available at: https://scholarship.claremont.edu/jhm/vol4/iss1/8

#### Terms of Use & License Information

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

*Article Supplement: Textbook Pages.*

#### Included in

Algebra Commons, Science and Mathematics Education Commons, Secondary Education and Teaching Commons

All displays referred to in the article are in the attached supplement file; see below. The supplement is not subject to the same copyright license for the article. The author of the article sought and was granted permission to include this material as a supplement to his article. In particular Displays 13–19 are included in the supplement with the permission of the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Individuals or entities wishing to use any of that material are kindly requested to contact the respective publishers for permission.