A Very Short Algebra Glossary
A Very Short Algebra Glossary
There are six basic algebra terms you need to know for the SAT. You also need to know these terms to understand what we’re talking about in this section of the book.
Constant.
A quantity that does not change. A number.
Variable.
An unknown quantity written as a letter. A variable can be represented by any letter in the English alphabet, most often x or y. Variables may be associated with specific things, like x number of apples or y dollars. Other times, variables have no specific association, but you’ll need to manipulate them to show that you understand certain algebraic principles.
Coefficient.
A coefficient is a number that appears next to a variable and tells how many of the variable there are. In the term 4x, 4 is the coefficient.
Equation.
Two expressions linked by an equal sign. Most of the algebra on the SAT consists of solving equations.
Term.
The product of a constant and a variable. Or, a quantity separated from other quantities by addition or subtraction. For example, in the equation
the side to the left of the equal sign contains four terms {3x3, 2x2, –7x, 4}, while the right side contains two terms {x, –1}. (The constants, 4 and –1, are considered terms because they are coefficients of variables raised to the zero power: 4 = 4x0.) So every term, including constants, is the product of a constant and a variable raised to some power.
Expression.
Any combination of terms. An expression can be as simple as a single constant term, like 5, or as complicated as the sum or difference of many terms, each of which is a combination of constants and variables, such as {(x2 + 2)3 – 6x} ⁄ 7x5. Expressions don’t include an equal sign—this is what differentiates expressions from equations. Expressions cannot be solved; they can only be simplified.
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