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# Adding exponents with the same base

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General Discussion
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hitman5532 wrote:
I know the usual rules about multiplying exponents and dividing exponents, but I was always under the impression that ADDING exponents with the same base is not possible. For example, I thought it was not possible to simplify $$x^n + x^m$$. But then I saw this operation written and I have no idea how or why this works:

$$3^{17} - 3^{16} + 3^{15} = ?$$
$$= 3^{15}(9 - 3 + 1)$$
$$= 3^{15}(7)$$

And yes, they are equal

Can someone explain how this method works, thanks

Check out this post on how to take common terms when dealing with exponents:

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hitman,

There are no general rules for addition or subtraction of exponents(unlike multiplication and addition), instead on the GMAT almost all such problems are simplified using the distributive property of multiplication over addition:
$$a(b+c) = ab + ac$$

For example:
$$42 + 56 = (7)(6) + (7)(8) = 7(6+8) = 7(14) = 98$$

We use the same idea for exponent terms:
$$3^{11} - 3^{10} = (3^{10})(3) - 3^{10}(1) = 3^{10}(3 - 1) = 3^{10}(2)$$

Another example that I use with students:
$$2^{20} - 3(2^{18}) = 2^{18}(2^2 - 3) = 2^{18}(4 - 3) = 2^{18}$$

Here is a list of official GMAT problems that use the same general principle to solve these types of problems:
If you haven't taken the GMATPrep practice test, then skip the ones listed as Official GMATPrep.

1) Old GMAT Paper Test(Easy): https://gmatclub.com/forum/5-12-5-13-a-5 ... 49552.html
2) Official GMATPrep(Medium): https://gmatclub.com/forum/which-of-the- ... 60927.html
3) Official GMAT Test(Medium): https://gmatclub.com/forum/what-is-the-g ... 70126.html
4) Official GMAT Test(Hard): https://gmatclub.com/forum/if-5-x-5-x-3- ... 09080.html
5) Official Guide GMAT 13th Edition(Hard): https://gmatclub.com/forum/the-value-of- ... 30682.html
6) Official GMATPrep Software(Hard): https://gmatclub.com/forum/what-is-the-g ... 04757.html
7) Official GMATPrep(Hard): https://gmatclub.com/forum/if-3-x-3-x-1- ... 44795.html
8) Official GMAT Test(Medium): https://gmatclub.com/forum/if-2-x-2-x-2- ... fl=similar
9) Official GMATPrep(Hard): https://gmatclub.com/forum/if-2-x-2-x-2- ... 30109.html

I believe that is pretty much all of the Official GMAT questions on this subtopic, other than the ones on the real exam over the last few years.

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Thank you everyone for your replies. Seeing the multiple takes on methodology gave me a great feel for the concept. It was one of those 'so obvious I missed it' things.
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So this is how it works. You first have 3^17−3^16+3^15=?
then you get
=3^15(9−3+1) for, you have to get a common factor
then you get 3^15(7)
i you care to simplify.
what about a kodu? eh? or 2. or 3. or 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
If you like this post, tell me through the kodu button
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hitman5532 wrote:
I know the usual rules about multiplying exponents and dividing exponents, but I was always under the impression that ADDING exponents with the same base is not possible. For example, I thought it was not possible to simplify $$x^n + x^m$$. But then I saw this operation written and I have no idea how or why this works:

$$3^{17} - 3^{16} + 3^{15} = ?$$
$$= 3^{15}(9 - 3 + 1)$$
$$= 3^{15}(7)$$

And yes, they are equal

Can someone explain how this method works, thanks

EXPONENTS

Exponents are a "shortcut" method of showing a number that was multiplied by itself several times. For instance, number $$a$$ multiplied $$n$$ times can be written as $$a^n$$, where $$a$$ represents the base, the number that is multiplied by itself $$n$$ times and $$n$$ represents the exponent. The exponent indicates how many times to multiple the base, $$a$$, by itself.

Exponents one and zero:
$$a^0=1$$ Any nonzero number to the power of 0 is 1.
For example: $$5^0=1$$ and $$(-3)^0=1$$
• Note: the case of 0^0 is not tested on the GMAT.

$$a^1=a$$ Any number to the power 1 is itself.

Powers of zero:
If the exponent is positive, the power of zero is zero: $$0^n = 0$$, where $$n > 0$$.

If the exponent is negative, the power of zero ($$0^n$$, where $$n < 0$$) is undefined, because division by zero is implied.

Powers of one:
$$1^n=1$$ The integer powers of one are one.

Negative powers:
$$a^{-n}=\frac{1}{a^n}$$

Powers of minus one:
If n is an even integer, then $$(-1)^n=1$$.

If n is an odd integer, then $$(-1)^n =-1$$.

Operations involving the same exponents:
Keep the exponent, multiply or divide the bases
$$a^n*b^n=(ab)^n$$

$$\frac{a^n}{b^n}=(\frac{a}{b})^n$$

$$(a^m)^n=a^{mn}$$

$$a^m^n=a^{(m^n)}$$ and not $$(a^m)^n$$ (if exponentiation is indicated by stacked symbols, the rule is to work from the top down)

Operations involving the same bases:
Keep the base, add or subtract the exponent (add for multiplication, subtract for division)
$$a^n*a^m=a^{n+m}$$

$$\frac{a^n}{a^m}=a^{n-m}$$

Fraction as power:
$$a^{\frac{1}{n}}=\sqrt[n]{a}$$

$$a^{\frac{m}{n}}=\sqrt[n]{a^m}$$

ROOTS

Roots (or radicals) are the "opposite" operation of applying exponents. For instance x^2=16 and square root of 16=4.

General rules:
• $$\sqrt{x}\sqrt{y}=\sqrt{xy}$$ and $$\frac{\sqrt{x}}{\sqrt{y}}=\sqrt{\frac{x}{y}}$$.

• $$(\sqrt{x})^n=\sqrt{x^n}$$

• $$x^{\frac{1}{n}}=\sqrt[n]{x}$$

• $$x^{\frac{n}{m}}=\sqrt[m]{x^n}$$

• $${\sqrt{a}}+{\sqrt{b}}\neq{\sqrt{a+b}}$$

• $$\sqrt{x^2}=|x|$$, when $$x\leq{0}$$, then $$\sqrt{x^2}=-x$$ and when $$x\geq{0}$$, then $$\sqrt{x^2}=x$$

• When the GMAT provides the square root sign for an even root, such as $$\sqrt{x}$$ or $$\sqrt[4]{x}$$, then the only accepted answer is the positive root.

That is, $$\sqrt{25}=5$$, NOT +5 or -5. In contrast, the equation $$x^2=25$$ has TWO solutions, +5 and -5. Even roots have only a positive value on the GMAT.

• Odd roots will have the same sign as the base of the root. For example, $$\sqrt[3]{125} =5$$ and $$\sqrt[3]{-64} =-4$$.

8. Exponents and Roots of Numbers

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