Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Positional Notation

Positional Notation

Our number system is base ten, as many learned in elementary school. Which means that there is only ten symbols to represent numbers. 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 . To represent ten we use 1 and 0 (10). Which when we learned place value, we recognized this as 1 in the tens place and 0 in the ones place. What this means is that the position of the symbol will determine the value of the number. For example when we see the symbol 34 we recognize it as 3 tens and 4 ones. We would often see something like:
Tens ones
3 4

 We are mostly taught this and just accept it as is and move on. To dig a little deeper into to place value I will introduce a new way of looking at this (Positional Notation) . To rewrite our example ,34, into positional notation we get this:

3 x 10¹ + 4 x 10º

The reason I write it this way is that is represents a number as powers of the base it is in. In this case it is base 10. Positional notation gives us a way of looking at numbers relevant to their base. The reason this is useful to learn, is that it gives us a quick way to convert numbers from other bases to base ten. For example, if you need to convert the number 101 in binary to base 10 you can rewrite 101 in positional notation and convert it easily. Since 101 is in binary we will use powers of 2 instead of 10 and we get

1 x 2² + 0 x 2¹ + 1 x  2º
1 x 4 + 0 x 2 + 1 x 1
4 + 0 + 1

As you can see from the table above just by rewriting the number into positional notation relevant to the base it is in you add it all up and you get the number in base 10. So when we convert 101 from binary to base ten we get 5.

 This is just a neat little trick I use to quickly convert numbers from other bases to base 10. With a little practice, you can convert numbers from most bases back to base ten almost effortlessly. There is other ways of converting number to other bases, I just really like this one.    

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