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Algebraic Expression

Algebraic Expressions
Okay, let's clear this up: An equation is a complete mathematical sentence that includes a sign of equality (like an equal sign). An expression is a mathematical sentence; it doesn't have an equal sign.

Expression Equation 5+2 3x 4(5 + 8x) 5+2=7 3x = 15 4(5 + 8x) = -44

Let's break it down further. An expression is made up of terms. Terms are each separate values in an expression. They can be separated by operations, like plus and minus signs. There are three parts of most expressions: the variable, constant, and coefficient. Variable: an unknown or changing number. Often represented by x. Constant: a number that doesnt change Coefficient: the number that is multiplied by the variable

Names for algebraic expressions

monomial binomial trinomial 1 Term xy

2 Terms xy - 2x 3 Terms xy - 2x + 3y

Algebraic Expression

quadnomial 4 Terms xy - 2x + 3 y 1
Here is a chart of common phrases.

Common Words and Phrases for: Add plus add sum more than in addition to greater than total and Subtract difference subtract less than take away Multiply product of times twice (2) factor Divide Equals divided by is quotient split share distribute

In these translations we will use the letter x to represent the variable, though any letter, symbol, or emoticon would work. Smiley faces and hearts, anyone?

Expression in Words a number increased by twelve the sum of twice a number and six eighty less than a number twenty-eight split in half the product of a number and seven the quotient of a number and four five greater than three times a number a number distributed evenly among six the total of forty and a number

Expression in Symbols x + 12 2x + 6 x 80 28 2 7x x4 3x + 5 x6 40 + x

Algebraic Expression

three times the total of a number and five Equation in Words A number is negative ten. A number plus two is eight.

3(x + 5) Equation in Symbols x = -10 x+2=8 x 7 = -3 2x 1 = 17 12 = 3x x = 20 or x = 20 x = 2x + -3

The difference between a number and seven is negative three. One less than twice a number is seventeen. Twelve is the product of a number and three. Half of a number is twenty. A number is equal to the sum of twice the number and negative three.

Look Out: be very careful with "less than". Three less than a number is translated as "x 3". The reverse of that, "3 x" would be a number less than three.

Evaluating Algebraic Expressions

To evaluate an algebraic expression, just plug numbers into the expression and simplify it. Don't Forget: you will need your faithful friend PEMDAS (aka Order of Operations).

Combining Like Terms

Algebraic terms can, and often should, be combined and simplified. However, only terms that are "like", meaning that they have the exact same variables in each of them, can be added or subtracted. Furthermore, the variables have to have the same exponent to be "like"; xy2 and xy are not like terms, since y is squared in the first term. Combining like terms is pretty simple, as long as you are careful with your negative and positive numbers. (For a quick review, check out adding integers and subtracting integers.) When adding and subtracting like terms, all you really need to do is combine the coefficients.

Algebraic Expression

Look Out: you can only combine terms with the exact same variables with the same exponents! It can seem a little more complicated when dealing with subtraction. You must be extremely careful to keep the operations with the correct terms. In the example:

there are two terms that can be combined (2y and 8y). However, it is"minus 8y" and we MUST be careful to keep the subtraction sign. 2y 8y = -6y. This expression simplifies to:

It is also worthy to note that the order of addition does not matter. This expression could also be written as 5x +-6y or 5x 6y. In each example below, we will draw shapes around the like terms

Distributive Property
Let's review the properties using variables instead of numbers:

Addition Commutative Associative Inverse Identity


The properties above do NOT work with subtraction and division.

Distributive Property
This one is very important when working with algebraic expressions. It basically says this:

Algebraic Expression and

However, the distributive property does NOT work when the variables inside the parentheses are being multiplied or divided.


Let's go through an example very carefully:

By applying the distributive property, we can multiply each term inside the parentheses by 4. This is called "distributing".

Since 12x and 4 are not like terms, this is as far as we can go with the problem. Well, what about subtraction? Let's look at a subtraction problem using two different methods.

Algebraic Expression

Method 1 Leave as Subtraction

Method 2 Add the Negative

Multiplying Monomials
You have already started multiplying polynomials, but now we will take this a few steps further. Look at the examples carefully and make note of the exponents. Remember: 5xy means Again, it is helpful to think of subtraction as adding a negative: (x 5) is the same as (x + -5). This will help you keep track of which terms are negative and which are positive.

Multiplying Monomial times Monomial

When multiplying a monomial by a monomial, multiply the coefficients together and tack on the variables on the end (usually in alphabetical order).

When multiplying two of the same variables, add the exponents. Remember that the exponent of x is 1.

Algebraic Expression

The reason for this is that x2 is really just x times x, and x times x2 is x times x times x, or xxx, which equals x3(since there are three x's).

Multiplying Monomial times Polynomial

This is just the distributive property that you just learned. First we are going to change the subtraction symbol to adding a negative.

Next we will distribute the 4x.

Multiplying Binomials
This is the last type of multiplication that we are going to learn in this unit. The good news is that there is nothing new to learn here. This is just applying the distributive property twice! The most important part of multiplying two binomials is to make sure that you multiply each term in the first factor by each term in the second. This can get a bit confusing, so be careful!

Let's make things easier by changing subtraction symbol to adding a negative number.

If we apply the distributive property twice, it would look like this:

Algebraic Expression

Whew, that was exhausting. Let's learn two different methods to make this a little easier.

Method #1: Box Method

Create a two-by-two table. Place one factor on top, and the other on the side. It doesn't matter which goes where, since multiplication is commutative. Be sure to keep the subtraction and addition signs with the correct terms.

Now, multiply each factor in the rows with each factor in the columns and write the products in the boxes.

Algebraic Expression

Add them all together,

Combine like terms,

And we're done!

Method #2: FOIL

FOIL stands for: First, Outer, Inner, Last. It is just a catchy way to remember each step. First: multiply the first terms of each binomial.

Outer: multiply the outer terms of each binomial.

Inner: multiply the inner terms of each binomial.

Last: multiply the last terms of each binomial.

Add them all together,

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Combine like terms,

And it's the same as the Box Method! If you look carefully you will see that the second method looks exactly like the examples from the distributive property section. For each example we will multiply using both methods.