Understanding Algebra

James W. Brennan




Algebraic Expressions


        Letters represent an unknown or generic real number

        Sometimes with restrictions, such as a member of a certain set, or the set of values that makes an equation true.

        Often a letter from the end of the alphabet: x, y, z

        Or a letter that stands for a physical quantity: d for distance, t for time, etc.


        Fixed values, like 2 or 7.

        Can also be represented by letters: a, b, c, p, e, k


Terms are Separated by + or


Factors are multiplied together.


Coefficients are constant factors that multiply a variable or powers of a variable

The middle term has 2 factors, 3 and x. We say that the coefficient of x is 3.

The first term has three factors, 2 and two factors of x. We say that 2 is the coefficient of x2.

The last term is a factor all by itself (although the number 4 could be factored into 2 × 2).



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copyright 1998-2002
James W. Brennan