Some Tricks to Help People Understand Very Large Numbers (2024)

Have you ever wondered what number comes after a trillion? Or how many zeros there are in a vigintillion? ​Some day you might need to know this for a science or math class, or if you happen to enter one of several mathematical or scientific fields.

Numbers Bigger Than a Trillion

The digit zero plays an important role as youcount very large numbers. It helps totrack these multiples of 10because the larger the number is, the more zeros are needed.

NameNumber of ZerosGroups of 3 Zeros
Thousand31 (1,000)
Ten thousand41 (10,000)
Hundred thousand51 (100,000)
Million62 (1,000,000)
Trillion124 (1,000,000,000,000)

Grouping Zeros by Threes

Manypeoplefind it easy to understand that the number 10 has one zero, 100 has two zeros, and 1,000 has three zeros. These numbers are used all the time in daily living, whether it is dealing with money or counting something as simple as our music playlist or the mileage on our cars.

When you get to million, billion, and trillion, things become a little more complicated. How many zeros come after the one in a trillion? It's hard to keep track of that and count each individual zero, sothese long numbershave been broken down into groups of three zeros.

Read MoreNumbers of Zeros in a Million, Billion, Trillion, and MoreBy Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

For example, it's much easier to remember that a trillion is written with four sets of three zeros than it is to count out 12 separate zeros. While you might think that one's pretty simple, just wait until you have to count 27 zeros for an octillion or 303 zeros for a centillion. Then you will be thankful that you only have to remember nine and 101 sets of three zeros, respectively.

Powers of 10 Shortcut

In mathematicsand science, youcan rely on the "powers of 10" to quickly express exactly how many zeros are needed for these larger numbers. For example, a shortcut for writing out a trillion is 1012(10 to the power of 12). The 12 indicates that the numberneeds a total of 12 zeros.

You can see how much easier these are to read than if there were just a bunch of zeros:

Quintillion = 1018 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
Decillion = 1033or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

The Enormous Numbers: Googol and Googolplex

You are probably very familiar with the search engine and tech company Google. Did you know that the name was inspired by another very large number? Though the spelling is different, thegoogoland thegoogolplexplayed a role in the naming of the tech giant.

A googol has 100 zeros and is expressed as 10100. It is often used to express any large quantity, even though it is a quantifiable number. It makes sense that the largest search engine that pulls a large quantity of data from the internet would find this word useful.

The term googol was coined by the American mathematician Edward Kasner in his 1940 book, "Mathematics and the Imagination." The story goes that Kasner asked his then 9-year-old nephew, Milton Sirotta, what to name this ridiculously long number. Sirotta came up withgoogol.

But why is a googol important if it's actually less than a centillion? Quite simply, agoogol is used to define agoogolplex.A googolplex is 10 to the power of googol, a number that boggles the mind. In fact, a googolplex is so large that there's really no known use for it. Some say that it even exceeds the total number of atoms in the universe.

The googolplex is not even the largest number defined to date. Mathematiciansand scientists have also devised "Graham's number" and "Skewes number." Both of these require a math degree to even begin to understand.

Short and Long Scales of a Billion

If you thought the concept of a googolplex is tricky, some people cannot even agree on what defines a billion. In the U.S. and most of the world, it is accepted that 1 billion equals 1,000 million. Itis written as 1,000,000,000 or 109. This number is used often in science and finance, and it is called the "short scale."

In the "long scale," 1 billion is equal to 1 million million. For this number, you will need a 1 followed by 12 zeros: 1,000,000,000,000 or 1012. The long scale was first described by Genevieve Guitel in 1975. It is used in France and, for a time, was accepted in the United Kingdom as well.



Your Citation

Fleming, Grace. "Understanding Very Large Numbers." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020,, Grace. (2020, August 27). Understanding Very Large Numbers. Retrieved from, Grace. "Understanding Very Large Numbers." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 19, 2024).

Some Tricks to Help People Understand Very Large Numbers (2024)


What are the tips for reading large numbers? ›

Numbers are separated into groups: ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, millions, and so on. Each group contains three subgroups: ones, tens, and hundreds. When writing or reading a large number, begin at the left with the largest group, and proceed to the right.

How do you handle large numbers? ›

Learn These Tricks On How To Work With Very Large Numbers
  1. Have a Calculator With You. This may seem like an obvious solution, but it is often overlooked. ...
  2. Learn the Units of Measure. ...
  3. Write Down the Problem. ...
  4. Draw a Diagram. ...
  5. Use Place Value. ...
  6. Round Off the Numbers. ...
  7. Depend on Estimation.

How do you learn large numbers? ›

When saying a large number, we always begin with the biggest number first. So thousands, then hundreds, then tens. Tens means numbers with two digits in them, like forty-two.

What is the easy division trick for large numbers? ›

Another useful technique to divide large numbers mentally is to use halving and doubling, which is based on the fact that dividing by 2 is the same as multiplying by 0.5, and vice versa. For example, if you want to divide 720 by 24, you can halve both numbers until you get an easier division.

What is the inability to comprehend large numbers? ›

In brain science there's a completely unrelated law of large numbers, and it's this: the larger the number, the worse the human brain's ability to comprehend it. A general rule of thumb is that the brain counts like this: one, two, three, four, many.

How do you memorize large numbers? ›

Here are their top tips:
  1. Create associations. ...
  2. Break long numbers into smaller parts. ...
  3. Look for patterns. ...
  4. Learn actively. ...
  5. Repeat it. ...
  6. Visualize the shape the numbers make on a keypad. ...
  7. Convert numbers to words or images.
May 26, 2010

What is the large numbers problem? ›

Borel's law of large numbers, named after Émile Borel, states that if an experiment is repeated a large number of times, independently under identical conditions, then the proportion of times that any specified event is expected to occur approximately equals the probability of the event's occurrence on any particular ...

What is a way of expressing numbers that are too large? ›

Scientific notation is a system for expressing very large or very small numbers in a compact manner. It uses the idea that such numbers can be rewritten as a simple number multiplied by 10 raised to a certain exponent, or power.

What is the easiest way to learn numbers? ›

10 Ways to Make Learning Numbers Fun and Engaging for Kids
  1. Use music and movement. ...
  2. Play guess the number. ...
  3. Get hands-on with counting objects. ...
  4. Make a number line. ...
  5. Play store. ...
  6. Create a number scavenger hunt. ...
  7. Use interactive apps and games. ...
  8. Build towers with blocks.

What is the law of large numbers for dummies? ›

The law of large numbers has a very central role in probability and statistics. It states that if you repeat an experiment independently a large number of times and average the result, what you obtain should be close to the expected value.

What is the strategy to help memorize large groups of numbers? ›

Chunking is simply breaking down a long number into smaller units, so it is easier to remember. A perfect example of this is U.S. telephone numbers, which are broken down by area code, exchange, and local number, so that instead of a string of 10 digits, you have three digits, three digits and four digits.

What is the 7 trick for division? ›

To determine whether a number is divisible by 7, you have to remove the last digit of the number, double it, and then subtract it from the remaining number. If the remainder is zero or a multiple of 7, then the number is divisible by 7. If the remainder is not zero or a multiple of 7, the number is not divisible by 7.

What is the division trick for 8? ›

Dividing by 8

This is another division hack that works with larger numbers. If the last three digits create a number that is divisible by 8, the entire number will also be divisible by 8. As an example 9180, the last three digits - as their own number - can be divided by 8, as can 9128.

Why do I have trouble reading big numbers? ›

Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that affects a person's ability to understand number-based information and math. People who have dyscalculia struggle with numbers and math because their brains don't process math-related concepts like the brains of people without this disorder.

What is a way of writing very large numbers easily? ›

Scientific notation is a way of writing very large or very small numbers. A number is written in scientific notation when a number between 1 and 10 is multiplied by a power of 10. For example, 650,000,000 can be written in scientific notation as 6.5 ✕ 10^8.

How to read 10000000? ›

10000000 in words is written as One Crore in the Indian Numeral System and Ten Million in the International Numeral system.


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