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Mathematics LibreTexts

6: Exponential and Logarithmic Functions

In this chapter, we will explore exponential functions, which can be used for, among other things, modeling growth patterns such as those found in bacteria. We will also investigate logarithmic functions, which are closely related to exponential functions. Both types of functions have numerous real-world applications when it comes to modeling and interpreting data.

  • 6.1: Prelude to Exponential and Logarithmic Functions
    Focus in on a square centimeter of your skin. Look closer. Closer still. If you could look closely enough, you would see hundreds of thousands of microscopic organisms. They are bacteria, and they are not only on your skin, but in your mouth, nose, and even your intestines. In fact, the bacterial cells in your body at any given moment outnumber your own cells. But that is no reason to feel bad about yourself. While some bacteria can cause illness, many are healthy and even essential to the body.
  • 6.2: Exponential Functions
    When populations grow rapidly, we often say that the growth is “exponential,” meaning that something is growing very rapidly. To a mathematician, however, the term exponential growth has a very specific meaning. In this section, we will take a look at exponential functions, which model this kind of rapid growth.
  • 6.3: Graphs of Exponential Functions
    Working with an equation that describes a real-world situation gives us a method for making predictions. Most of the time, however, the equation itself is not enough. We learn a lot about things by seeing their pictorial representations, and that is exactly why graphing exponential equations is a powerful tool. It gives us another layer of insight for predicting future events.
  • 6.4: Logarithmic Functions
    The inverse of an exponential function is a logarithmic function, and the inverse of a logarithmic function is an exponential function.
  • 6.5 Graphs of Logarithmic Functions
    In this section we will discuss the values for which a logarithmic function is defined, and then turn our attention to graphing the family of logarithmic functions.
  • 6.6: Logarithmic Properties
    Recall that the logarithmic and exponential functions “undo” each other. This means that logarithms have similar properties to exponents. Some important properties of logarithms are given here.
  • 6.7: Exponential and Logarithmic Equations
    Uncontrolled population growth can be modeled with exponential functions. Equations resulting from those exponential functions can be solved to analyze and make predictions about exponential growth. In this section, we will learn techniques for solving exponential functions.
  • 6.8: Exponential and Logarithmic Models
    We have already explored some basic applications of exponential and logarithmic functions. In this section, we explore some important applications in more depth, including radioactive isotopes and Newton’s Law of Cooling.
  • 6.9: Fitting Exponential Models to Data
    We will concentrate on three types of regression models in this section: exponential, logarithmic, and logistic. Having already worked with each of these functions gives us an advantage. Knowing their formal definitions, the behavior of their graphs, and some of their real-world applications gives us the opportunity to deepen our understanding. As each regression model is presented, key features and definitions of its associated function are included for review.

Thumbnail: The functions \(y=e^x\) and \(y=\ln(x)\) are inverses of each other, so their graphs are symmetric about the line \(y=x\).


  • Lynn Marecek (Santa Ana College) and MaryAnne Anthony-Smith (formerly of Santa Ana College). This content produced by OpenStax and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 license.