Exponential powers are old news. You've squared things, cubed things, occasionally raised things to a negative power, and even gotten into a shoving match with a variable raised to the fifth power once, outside a shady nightclub on the edge of town. (If his coefficient hadn't been there, who knows what would have happened?)

Let's be frank. Exponents have been strutting around and showing off. They're at the top of the food chain, with no natural enemies. Sure, addition's great, but it has to look out for its arch nemesis, subtraction, and multiplication has never been the same since division showed up and started talking to his girlfriend. However, the worm has turned, and exponents are about to be put in their respective places; you're now going to learn about radicals, little symbols that keep exponential powers in check (which is quite a coincidence, since the radical symbol almost looks like a little check mark).

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Algebra © 2004 by W. Michael Kelley. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.