Largest number that can be stored in a floating word of 7 bits

QUESTION: What is the largest base-10 positive number that can be stored using 7 bits, where the 1st bit is used for the sign of the number; the 2nd bit for sign of the exponent; 3 bits for mantissa, and the rest of the bits for the exponent?

ANSWER: Remember the base is 2.
1st bit will need to be zero as the number is positive.

2nd bit will need to be zero as that will make the exponent positive as 2^positive. number will give higher number than 2^negative number.

The mantissa bits will need to be 111 as you are looking for largest number and that will give the number to be 1.111 (the 1 before radix point is automatic) in base of 2 or 1*2^0+1*2^(-1)+1*2^(-2)+1*2^(-3)=1.875 in base of 10.

Now the exponent: it uses 2 bits. This will need to be 11 in base 2 and that is 3 in base 10. So the exponent part is 2^(+3)=8.

Largest number is +1.875*8=15

Now think what will give you the smallest positive number.


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Author: Autar Kaw

Autar Kaw ( is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Florida. He has been at USF since 1987, the same year in which he received his Ph. D. in Engineering Mechanics from Clemson University. He is a recipient of the 2012 U.S. Professor of the Year Award. With major funding from NSF, he is the principal and managing contributor in developing the multiple award-winning online open courseware for an undergraduate course in Numerical Methods. The OpenCourseWare ( annually receives 1,000,000+ page views, 1,000,000+ views of the YouTube audiovisual lectures, and 150,000+ page views at the NumericalMethodsGuy blog. His current research interests include engineering education research methods, adaptive learning, open courseware, massive open online courses, flipped classrooms, and learning strategies. He has written four textbooks and 80 refereed technical papers, and his opinion editorials have appeared in the St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune.

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