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Does the word polynomial make your hair stand on end? Let this friendly guide show you the easy way to tackle algebra. You'll get plain-English explanations of the basics — and the tougher stuff — in terms you can understand. Whether you want to brush up on your math skills or help your children with their homework, this book gives you power — to the nth degree.
It's all about numbers — get the lowdown on numbers — rational and irrational, integers, and positive and negative
Factor in the fun — discover the easy way to figure out working with prime numbers, factoring, and distributing
Don't hate, equate! — get a handle on the most common equations you'll encounter in algebra, from basic linear problems to the quadratic formula and everything in between
Resolve to solve — learn how to solve linear and quadratic equations, keep equations balanced, and check your work
Put it to use — find out how to apply algebra to tackle measurements, formulas, story problems, and graphs
Open the book and find:
Plain-English explanations of "algebra speak"
How to figure out fractions and deal with decimals
Guidance on working with exponents and radicals
The rules of divisibility
The standard quadratic expression
When to use FOIL and unFOIL
Special cases for factoring
The ground rules for solving equations
How to put the Pythagorean theorem to work
Learn to:
Understand algebra
Solve complex problems
Find the solution every time
Increase your understanding of how algebra works
In This Chapter
* Nailing down the basics: Numbers
* Recognizing the players: Variables and signs
* Grouping terms and operations together
* Playing the game and following the rules
You probably have heard the word algebra on many occasions and knew that it had something to do with mathematics. Perhaps you remember that algebra has enough information to require taking two separate high school algebra classes - Algebra I and Algebra II. But what exactly is algebra? What is it really used for?
This chapter answers these questions and more, providing the straight scoop on some of the contributions to algebra's development, what it's good for, how algebra is used, and what tools you need to make it happen.
In a nutshell, algebra is a way of generalizing arithmetic. Through the use of variables that can generally represent any value in a given formula, general formulas can be applied to all numbers. Algebra uses positive and negative numbers, integers, fractions, operations, and symbols to analyze the relationships between values. It's a systematic study of numbers and their relationship, and it uses specific rules.
For example, the formula a × 0 = 0 shows that any real number, represented here by the a, multiplied by zero always equals zero. (For more information on themultiplication property of zero, see Chapter 14.)
In algebra, by using an x to represent the number two, for example in x + x + x = 6, you can generalize with the formula 3x = 6.
You may be thinking, "That's great and all, but come on. Is it really necessary to do that - to plop in letters in place of numbers and stuff?" Well, yes. Early mathematicians found that using letters to represent quantities simplified problems. In fact, that's what algebra is all about - simplifying problems.
The basic purpose of algebra has been the same for thousands of years: to allow people to solve problems with unknown answers.
Beginning with the Basics: Numbers
Where would mathematics and algebra be without numbers? A part of everyday life, numbers are the basic building blocks of algebra. Numbers give you a value to work with.
Where would civilization be today if not for numbers? Without numbers to figure the total cubits, Noah couldn't have built his ark. Without numbers to figure the distances, slants, heights, and directions, the pyramids would never have been built. Without numbers to figure out navigational points, the Vikings would never have left Scandinavia. Without numbers to examine distance in space, humankind could not have landed on the moon.
Even the simple tasks and the most common of circumstances require a knowledge of numbers. Suppose that you wanted to figure the amount of gasoline it takes to get from home to work and back each day. You need a number for the total miles between your home and business and another number for the total miles your car can run on one gallon of gasoline.
The different sets of numbers are important because what they look like and how they behave can set the scene for particular situations or help to solve particular problems. It's sometimes really convenient to declare, "I'm only going to look at whole-number answers," because whole numbers do not include fractions. This may happen if you're working through a problem that involves a number of cars. Who wants half a car?
Algebra uses different sets of numbers, such as whole numbers and those that follow here, to solve different problems.
Really real numbers
Real numbers are just what the name implies. In contrast to imaginary numbers, they represent real values - no pretend or make-believe. Real numbers, the most inclusive set of numbers, comprise the full spectrum of numbers; they cover the gamut and can take on any form - fractions or whole numbers, decimal points or no decimal points. The full range of real numbers includes decimals that can go on forever and ever without end. The variations on the theme are endless.
For the purposes of this book, I always refer to real numbers.
Counting on natural numbers
A natural number is a number that comes naturally. What numbers did you first use? Remember someone asking, "How old are you?" You proudly held up four fingers and said, "Four!" The natural numbers are also counting numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and so on into infinity.
You use natural numbers to count items. Sometimes the task is to count how many people there are. A half-person won't be considered (and it's a rather grisly thought). You use natural numbers to make lists.
Wholly whole numbers
Whole numbers aren't a whole lot different from the natural numbers. The whole numbers are just all the natural numbers plus a zero: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on into infinity.
Whole numbers act like natural numbers and are used when whole amounts (no fractions) are required. Zero can also indicate none. Algebraic problems often require you to round the answer to the nearest whole number. This makes perfect sense when the problem involves people, cars, animals, houses, or anything that shouldn't be cut into pieces.
Integrating integers
Integers allow you to broaden your horizons a bit. Integers incorporate all the qualities of whole numbers and their opposites, or additive inverses of the whole numbers (refer to the "Operating with opposites" section in this chapter for information on additive inverses). Integers can be described as being positive and negative whole numbers: ... -3, -2, -1,0,1,2,3 ....
Integers are popular in algebra. When you solve a long, complicated problem and come up with an integer, you can be joyous because your answer is probably right. After all, it's not a fraction! This doesn't mean that answers in algebra can't be fractions or decimals. It's just that most textbooks and reference books try to stick with nice answers to increase the comfort level and avoid confusion. This is the plan in this book, too. After all, who wants a messy answer, even though, in real life, that's more often the case.
Being reasonable: Rational numbers
Rational numbers act rationally! What does that mean? In this case, acting rationally means that the decimal equivalent of the rational number behaves. The decimal ends somewhere, or it has a repeating pattern to it. That's what constitutes "behaving." Some rational numbers have decimals that end in 2, 3.4, 5.77623, -4.5. Other rational numbers have decimals that repeat the same pattern, such as 3.164164164 ... = 3.[bar.164], or .666666666 .[bar.6]. The horizontal bar over the 164 and the 6 lets you know that these numbers repeat forever.
In all cases, rational numbers can be written as a fraction. They all have a fraction that they are equal to. So one definition of a rational number is any number that can be written as a fraction.
Restraining irrational numbers
Irrational numbers are just what you may expect from their name - the opposite of rational numbers. An irrational number cannot be written as a fraction, and decimal values for irrationals never end and never have a nice pattern to them. Whew! Talk about irrational! For example, pi, with its never-ending decimal places, is irrational.
Evening out even and odd numbers
An even number is one that divides evenly by two. "Two, four, six, eight. Who do we appreciate?"
An odd number is one that does not divide evenly by two. The even and odd numbers alternate when you list all the integers.
Varying Variables
Variable is the most general word for a letter that represents the unknown, or what you're solving for in an algebra problem. A variable always represents a number.
Algebra uses letters, called variables, to represent numbers that correspond to specific values. Usually, if you see letters toward the beginning of the alphabet in a problem, such as a, b, or c, they represent known or set values, and the letters toward the end of the alphabet, such as x, y, or z, represent the unknowns, things that can change, or what you're solving for.
The following list goes through some of the more commonly used variables.
Speaking in Algebra
Algebra and symbols in algebra are like a foreign language. They all mean something and can be translated back and forth as needed. It's important to know the vocabulary in a foreign language; it's just as important in algebra.
Taking Aim at Algebra Operations
In algebra today, a variable represents the unknown (see more on variables in the "Speaking in Algebra" section earlier in this chapter). Before the use of symbols caught on, problems were written out in long, wordy expressions. Actually, using signs and operations was a huge breakthrough. First, a few operations were used, and then algebra became fully symbolic. Nowadays, you may see some words alongside the operations to explain and help you understand, like having subtitles in a movie. Look at this example to see what I mean. Which would you rather write out:
The number of quarts of water multiplied by six and then that value added to three
or
6x + 3?
I'd go for the second option. Wouldn't you?
By doing what early mathematicians did - letting a variable represent a value, then throwing in some operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), and then using some specific rules that have been established over the years - you have a solid, organized system for simplifying, solving, comparing, or confirming an equation. That's what algebra is all about: That's what algebra's good for.
Deciphering the symbols
The basics of algebra involve symbols. Algebra uses symbols for quantities, operations, relations, or grouping. The symbols are shorthand and are much more efficient than writing out the words or meanings. But you need to know what the symbols represent, and the following list shares some of that info.
Excerpted from Algebra For Dummies by Mary Jane Sterling Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Introduction 1
Part I: Starting Off with the Basics 7
Chapter 1: Assembling Your Tools 9
Chapter 2: Assigning Signs: Positive and Negative Numbers 19
Chapter 3: Figuring Out Fractions and Dealing with Decimals 35
Chapter 4: Exploring Exponents and Raising Radicals 55
Chapter 5: Doing Operations in Order and Checking Your Answers 73
Part II: Figuring Out Factoring 91
Chapter 6: Working with Numbers in Their Prime 93
Chapter 7: Sharing the Fun: Distribution 107
Chapter 8: Getting to First Base with Factoring 127
Chapter 9: Getting the Second Degree 139
Chapter 10: Factoring Special Cases 157
Part III: Working Equations 169
Chapter 11: Establishing Ground Rules for Solving Equations 171
Chapter 12: Solving Linear Equations 183
Chapter 13: Taking a Crack at Quadratic Equations 203
Chapter 14: Distinguishing Equations with Distinctive Powers 223
Chapter 15: Rectifying Inequalities 243
Part IV: Applying Algebra 263
Chapter 16: Taking Measure with Formulas 265
Chapter 17: Formulating for Profi t and Pleasure 281
Chapter 18: Sorting Out Story Problems 291
Chapter 19: Going Visual: Graphing 311
Chapter 20: Lining Up Graphs of Lines 327
Part V: The Part of Tens 345
Chapter 21: The Ten Best Ways to Avoid Pitfalls 347
Chapter 22: The Ten Most Famous Equations 353
Index 357
Anonymous
Posted July 30, 2005
I am 55 years old and re-taking math classes so I can take Trigonometry and Calculus. I was scared to death (like many other older students) going into my college Elementary Algebra class because I had done so miserably in Algebra in high school 40 years ago. Our college textbook for Elementary Algebra didn't always explain things clearly enough for me. I went to this Dummies book a lot. It is easy to read as well as humorous in places. I found it particularly helpful in learning to solve word problems and I have that chapter in this book marked up as much as my textbook! If you already know Algebra pretty well you may find this book too easy. But, for someone like me who was scared to death because of my past failure this book was a godsend. Like any subject you are trying to conquer, you must put in the study time. I learned many years ago that using supplemental books like this give me a little bit of a different perspective on a subject that just may help tweak something in my gray matter to cement a concept in. Please note that I also used this along with the two other books I recommend below.
12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.This is an absolutely brilliant book for those who desperately need a guide in Algebra II. I have a very bad history with mathematics, to put it simply-my education was pretty badly torn off track somewhere around 7th grade. I'm now a senior in high school, and just got back on track last year. (To give an example of just how badly I was behind-Until my junior year, I didn't know how to distribute or how to solve relatively easy equations.)
My point is, if this book helps *me*, it can help anyone! I'm currently in a Algebra II class, however I want to finish it early and go on to precalc. I went through the Algebra II book, took notes, did problems, and generally studied it. It took me around two months to go through the whole thing and make sure I actually knew it. Tomorrow I'm going to take the test-out option to jump directly into precalc, and I'm very sure I'll pass it.
Not only did this book teach me Algebra II, but it also taught me techniques for doing things I've done before, but in a clumsy way. For example, I've always used a slow method of handling exponents, but the book taught me the proper method to manage exponents quickly and properly.
Finally,the best thing about this book-It makes math FUN. I can't describe how great that is, but trust me, it's wonderful. Having the math explained in a "human" way, with all the relevant information but none of the dry textbook "voice" is brilliant. It lets you jump directly into the math, without feeling like you have to crack a code to understand.
Over all, 5/5, and definitely worth the money.
PS-I'd highly suggest that anyone buying this book get the workbook with the same title. It'll give you problems to try and practice on. This is the absolute best way to learn, so don't pass it up!
5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.Anonymous
Posted January 5, 2007
note: The '...' in the title are an algebra pun! O) p When I hear or read a book title that includes the phrase, 'for Dummies', I easily pull together the concepts that this book is not likely a foundational text for building one's doctorate upon, and that there might very well be some non-standard methodology in its construct. How is it possible to mistake a book titled, 'Algebra for Dummies' as something other than that?!? p In any event, had my high school algebra teacher(s) approached the subject in this vein, I would have never developed a fear of the subject, and by now, my adult income would [approximate] be about quadruple what it is/was/has been. It took more than twenty years and three math-gifted offspring to discover that I have an aptitude for algebra, but was too afraid to pursue it. I have successfully and convincingly discussed 4-plane time and space theory with literal rocket scientists - naturally figured how to solve for a proportional unknown, blah-blah-blah. In other words, I had the goods, but was delusional about being any good at it. p I say this to point out that most everyone that lives in fear of 'higher mathematics' need not do so. That most all those folks could be and would be hysterically excited to discover that their understanding of math is there, just waiting to be coaxed along a bit. p The author's assertion that the knowledge of algebra is power is not far off the mark, if off at all. Even if you never use it (although you will, or will have the opportunity to do so), the provable fact that you are not a math retard after all is worth considerably more than this book costs. That you will be able to pursue algebraic exploits without fear is just gravy.
4 out of 9 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.Anonymous
Posted December 28, 2005
I have already learned more within the first week of having this book than I did within the last month. The bad thing is that the author strays too much from what she should be talking about. If you can look past the fact that almost every other paragraph isnt about math then buy the book. If it is going to piss you off, dont buy the book.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.Anonymous
Posted April 8, 2003
This book is impossible to understand. It has been 15 years since I have taken an algebra course and bought this to brush up on math, before a chem course this summer. I thought I understood the basics, then I read this and became completely confused. My husband who is a scientist and works with algebra on a daily bases, agreed that the teaching technique in this book does not make sense. There are no examples to test what you have learned. All the examples are worked out for you step by step.
2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.Anonymous
Posted January 29, 2012
This book has a way of teaching you before you actualy have too do the problem, the math problems are great too
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.Anonymous
Posted December 10, 2013
I know this isn't for chatting but I need help with some work. I am in 8th grade algebra 1 but im supose to be in pre-algebra but im in a advanced class . The textbook we're using at my school is Beginning Algebra Sixth Editon; Gustafson Frisk I dont understand alot in it sometimes when the teacher explains it I dont underdstand her clearly. Right now we are learning point-
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Posted March 7, 2013
It's so well written. In a normal textbook you have to spend time trying to decipher what half the material means and how it relates to the rest of the book, but in this book it's almost as though you are listening to a person explain it to you at a party. The book also makes it very easy to understand the way algebraic expressions, equations, and formulae are written.
Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.Anonymous
Posted December 27, 2012
Will this help my sis she is in 5 th grade and gets bad grades in math she got an 8% in matg on a 10 qusetion plz tell me if it workz
0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.Anonymous
Posted July 6, 2012
I took the advice of some of the reviewers and purchased the hardcopy and the workbook that goes with it. I'm really surprised and proud of how far I'm come in just a few days! I'm on Chapter 9 in the workbook and think/hope I've come across a typo because simplifying and factoring algebraic fractions has caused me to hit a wall. I'm looking at problem #9 in the ninth chapter. They show where they work it out and my answer agrees with that, but what they show as the answer in bold differs by one power in the variable. Can anyone verify this? Many thanks.
Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.Anonymous
Posted April 3, 2012
Didnt have enough problems or didnt show me examples so i could get better @math
0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.
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Posted April 1, 2012
I, like many people, learn by doing. As far as I can tell this book does not offer any practice problems to test your knowledge. It seems to just spout off concepts and rules but doesn't offer the reader a chance to apply what they've learned. This book could be improved greatly if there were worksheets at the end of each chapter. This book reads more like an informational textbook instead of a lesson book.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.Anonymous
Posted August 4, 2010
I recently purchased this book but returned it because I paid $14.36 for it and it came used with a bargain book price of $5.95. Customer service refused to reimburse me the different claiming that it was no longer a bargain book yet if you go to the website it clearly says that you can buy the book used( which I did not) So watch you bill closely because they do not honor their charges or claims
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.Anonymous
Posted April 21, 2009
I am a high school student and I'm currently taking Algebra 1. I am really interested in this book, but I don't know if I should buy this one or the Algebra 2 book. I just need to know the difference so I don't waste my money on buying something I already know a lot about.
-Thank you.
0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.
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Posted May 3, 2005
How can you call it an algebra book if it doesn't include Galois theory?
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.
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Posted July 3, 2004
Too general in its explainations. Does not go deep enough to really give reader an understanding of the concepts.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.
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Posted May 10, 2004
this book rocks! It really helps me with Algebra! This book is great.
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Posted October 20, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
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Posted April 5, 2012
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Posted March 6, 2011
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Overview
Does the word polynomial make your hair stand on end? Let this friendly guide show you the easy way to tackle algebra. You'll get plain-English explanations of the basics — and the tougher stuff — in terms you can understand. Whether you want to brush up on your math skills or help your children with their homework, this book gives you power — to the nth degree.
It's all ...