skip to contentstylized crane logoWhite Crane Education

Negative Exponents

You can think of a negative exponent as one that's been "misplaced" and needs to be moved back onto the correct side of its fraction. So if I gave you x-2, simplifying the expression is a matter of moving the exponent part from the numerator to the denominator and making the exponent positive so

x-2 = 1

Similary, if you had an exponent in the denominator, it would move to the numerator.

1  = y3

Just like any other exponent simplification problem you should always be very wary of addition. If I asked you to simplify

x2 + y2

the correct answer would be

y3(x2 + y2)

The denominator is being divided into the entire numerator so when you "fix" the negative exponent, you have to apply it to the entire numerator, not just, for example, the y part or the x part