If we had unique words for ten thousand and a hundred thousand, for ten million and a hundred million, it might make understanding of really big numbers more intuitive.

Look at these numbers:

$10

$100

$1,000

$1,000,000

$1,000,000,000

$1,000,000,000,000

Now consider these corresponding words:

ten dollars

hundred dollars

thousand dollars

million dollars

billion dollars

trillion dollars

Can you see the problem? The discrepancy? To the casual or untrained reader or listener, the ratios between between a million, a billion, and a trillion dollars do not seem intuitively different from the ratios between ten, a hundred, and a thousand dollars, when seen or heard in **words**.

Seeing them written out in figures does make a difference, although helping the average person understand the comparative magnitude of a trillion dollars as opposed to a billion dollars still can be difficult. But I suspect that the real problem begins with how we label (in English, anyway) the numbers that we use for counting.

Here is another list:

*one

*ten

*hundred

*thousand

ten thousand

hundred thousand

*million

ten million

hundred million

*billion

ten billion

hundred billion

*trillion

For the first four numbers above, we learn and read distinct words (marked *). But then as we continue the sequence, words are reused, and only every third word we encounter is new. This misleads us, unfortunately, into subconsciously assuming that the numerical distance between million, billion, and trillion is equivalent to the distance between ten, hundred, and thousand.

If we had unique words for the other steps (and those beyond them) on the list above - if ten thousand was called, say, *decand*, and hundred thousand was called *cenand*, and if ten million was called *medillion*, and hundred million was called *mecillion*, and so on - it might make understanding of really big numbers more intuitive.

Anybody want to take on this project and see it through to conclusion? 😊

**Mike Treder**is a former Managing Director of the IEET.