rule 1

Wednesday’s Why $–$ Episode 6

In this week’s episode of Wednesday’s Why we will tackle why the following is “law” of exponents is true in a way that hopefully will promote mathematical fluency and confidence. It is my hope that through these Wednesday’s Why episodes that you are empowered to seek deeper understanding by seeing that math is a written language and that by substituting equivalent expressions we can manipulate things to find truths.

${\mathrm{log}}_{2}\left(M\cdot N\right)={\mathrm{log}}_{2}M+{\mathrm{log}}_{2}N$

Now of course the base of 2 is arbitrary, but we will use a base of two to explore this.

The first thing to be aware of is that exponents and logarithms deal with the same issue of repeated multiplication. There connection between the properties of each are tightly related. What we will see here is that the property of logarithms above and this property of exponents below are both at play here. But it is not so easy to see, so let’s do a little exploration.

Just to be sure of how exponents and logarithms are written with the same meaning, consider the following.

${a}^{b}=c↔{\mathrm{log}}_{a}c=b$

Let us begin with statement 1: ${2}^{A}=M$

We can rewrite this as a logarithm, statement 1.1: ${\mathrm{log}}_{2}M=A$

Statement 2:
${2}^{B}=N$

We can rewrite this as a logarithm, statement 2.1: ${\mathrm{log}}_{2}N=B$

If we take the product of M and N, we would get
2A ·2B. Since exponents are repeated multiplication,

2A ·2B = 2A + B

This gives us statement 3: $M\cdot N={2}^{A+B}$

Let us rewrite statement 3 as a logarithmic equation.

$M\cdot N={2}^{A+B}\to {\mathrm{log}}_{2}\left(M\cdot N\right)=A+B$

In statements 1.1 and 2.1 we see what A and B equal. So let’s substitute those now.

$\begin{array}{l}{\mathrm{log}}_{2}\left(M\cdot N\right)=A+B\\ {\mathrm{log}}_{2}\left(M\cdot N\right)={\mathrm{log}}_{2}M+{\mathrm{log}}_{2}N\end{array}$

It took a little algebraic-juggling to get it done, but hopefully you can now see that this is not a law or a rule, but a property of repeated multiplication, just like all of the properties of exponents are consequences of repeated multiplication.

Let me know what worked for you here and what did not. Leave me a comment.

Thank you again.