Before there was Google, there was googol. And, no, a googol is not another incredibly popular search engine. A googol is a number—a really, really big number. Don’t ever expect to count to it or ask your child to do so. It would take forever to get there! Googol is typically expressed as 10100, but to write it out on paper, you would start with 10 and then write another 100 zeros!
Here’s what it looks like: 100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
00000000000000000000000000000. It doesn’t even fit on one typed line. It’s quite a mind-blowing idea for your children. As a first grader, my older son enjoyed writing it out by hand. Given his scrawling handwriting, it took many sheets of paper and a lot of time, but something about such a large number just fascinated him.
Google Is Born
It’s no coincidence that the Google search engine sounds so much like googol. Founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, named the search engine as a play on the number. The mega search engine was initially named BackRub. In 1997, however, the founders decided to change the name to Google since they liked the idea of a 10 followed by 100 zeros. It has an infinite feel to it, and the Google guys planned a search engine with practically infinite information.
The Origins of Googol
As you explain a googol to your child, share how the mind-boggling number came to be. After all, it’s difficult to imagine having a googol of cookies or a googol of pencils! Your little one might wonder what kind of mind comes up with something like that. Well, the answer is a young mind! Nine-year-old Milton Sirotta made the name up in 1938. His uncle Edward Kasner went on to name a googolplex, which is 10googol.
Considering a Googol
A googol is 1010^2. 1010 is big enough. That’s 10 times itself 10 times or 10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10, but a googol is much, much, much larger since it’s 10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10*10 and on and on until it’s been multiplied 100 times or 10100.
Interestingly, some Google firsts were also powers of 10, just like googol. In 1998, Google received a check for $100,000 written to Google, Inc., even though Google wasn’t incorporated yet! 100,000 is 105.
PC Magazine included Google in its top 100 websites of 1998. 100 is 102.
In 2000, Google released its first 10 language versions. 10 is 101.
Share how easy it is to write multiples of 10 in exponential form (a way to show how many times a number is multiplied by itself). All you have to do is count the zeros. For example, 100 is 102 because there are two zeros. 1000 is 103 because there are three zeros, and 1,000,000 is 106 because there are 6 zeros.
Here are activities to help children understand larger numbers: