How many millions are in a trillion?

Do you know how many millions are in a trillion? According to Econ4u.org (Employment Policies Institute), only 21% of the people in a national poll answered the question correctly. That’s not good. You definitely want to know the answer to this question and here’s why. . .

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/4428480]

Every day we read or hear numbers that are in the billion and trillions, but only 1 out of 5 people understand the magnitude of these numbers. If you don’t really grasp the relative size of these numbers, will you not fully comprehend what it means when the news reports that the US Budget of $3.7 trillion. Will you appreciate what it means when you read a marketing report that says the population of India is 1.3 billion vs the population of the US is 314 million? How does the $130 billion market cap of Citigroup compare with your own organization? Struggling with these? Keep reading. . . 

So back to the original question, how many millions are in a trillion? There are one million millions in one trillion.

  • 1 million x 1 million = 1 trillion
  • 1,000,000 x 1,000,000 = 1,000,000,000,000

When writing these numbers

  • million = 6 zeros (000,000)
  • billion = 9 zeros (000,000,000)
  • trillion – 12 zeros (000,000,000,000)

When you add three zeros (multiply by 1,000), the magnitude increases by 1,000x

  • 1 million x 1,000 = 1 billion
  • 1 billion x 1,000 = 1 trillion
  • by the way, there is no such thing as a “zillion”; when you add three zeros to a trillion, you have a quadrillion

Likewise, when you subtract three zeros (divide by 1,000), the magnitude decreases by 1,000x

  • 1 billion ÷ 1,000 = 1 million (or 1 million is 1/1,000 of 1 billion)
  • 1 trillion ÷ 1,000 = 1 billion (or 1 billion is 1/1,000 of 1 trillion)

The next time you hear a number in the trillions, take a moment to understand its magnitude. Keep working with these numbers and you’ll become very familiar with their size relative to other numbers.

It is important to note that there are two large-number naming systems in use throughout the world. See the Wikipedia entry for “Long and short scales” for a complete explanation. Keep this in mind if you are working with people or looking at data from outside the US and the UK.

Here is an interesting video from Numberfile which compares the short and long scales (otherwise known as the US and European systems). It also explains quadrillions, sextillions, milliards, and billiards. Enjoy!

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