Learning the names of big numbers, if we’re being honest, doesn’t top the list as one of the most practical of all the skills I will teach my kids. That is, it’s not something that they’re going to use every day, as discussions rarely go over the trillions mark.
But here’s why I want to learn about large number names with my kids anyway:
1. It’s fun! All kids wonder about big numbers. They are fun to think about, and most kids have thought or asked lots of questions such as, “What’s the biggest number? Is anything bigger than infinity? What comes after a quadrillion? Is a gazillion a real number?” and so on.
2. Learning about big numbers stimulates the imagination, sense of wonder, and sense of discovery of the universe and mathematics.
3. It encourages a better understanding of the idea of just how big a “billion” and “trillion” are, and then thinking about all of the numbers after that, causes you to understand those numbers better when they’re talked about in science, politics, and life.
4. It teaches root words. All of the big number names are named what they are for a reason. You can discuss with your child the meaning of all the root words, such as “oct” (8), “sep” (7), “dec” (10), “quad” (4), “quin” (5), “tri / tre” (3), and so on.
So even though “duodecillion” may not be a word that your child will ever use in their everyday vocabulary, learning about big number names still has a lot of benefits in stimulating your child’s love of math, curiosity, and understanding of the universe.
Here is the printable poster I made, which includes a chart of numbers up to a vigintillion (plus a googol and googolplex), the names for those numbers, and those numbers written in scientific notation.
As a bonus there is a discussion on visualizing how big those numbers are, and a discussion of the concept of infinity.
Click here to download: Learning Big Number Names