Types of Algebra Items
On the new SAT, algebra items are one of three basic types:
  1. Bunch o’ Numbers & Letters (hereafter referred to as Buncho items)
  2. Storytime Algebra
  3. Obey the Function!
Here’s a brief description of each item type.
These are easy to spot. The stem is slap-dash full of numbers and letters (the letters should probably be referred to by their math name, variables). Manipulating the letters and numbers so they do your bidding is the key to these items, but this isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
You’ve already seen a sample Buncho item twice:
4. If and , what does b equal?
(A) –8
(C) 8
(D) 64
(E) 4,096
Storytime Algebra
These items often have hidden variables, but they can also be clearly spotted by their talkiness. Storytime Algebra items are word problems that either come right out and ask you to set up an algebraic equation or are written in a way that leads you to believe you must set up an algebraic equation to find the correct answer. This assumption—that you have to set up an equation—isn’t true, but we’ll talk about that later. A sample Storytime Algebra item looks like:
5. Kronhorst has one third as many DVDs as his friend Carlos, who has twice as many DVDs as David does. If k equals the number of DVDs Kronhorst has and c equals the number of DVDs Carlos has, which of the following expressions shows the amount of DVDs David has?
(C) 6kc
There are variables throughout the item, and the stem blathers on for some time. That’s Storytime Algebra for you.
Obey the Function!
Old-timey function items on the SAT used only strange mathematical symbols, such as . These looked bizarre but just meant that you were to take any number between the two “horseshoes” and multiply it by 3. These functions were simple. Maybe too simple, because these items have been replaced with new kinds of function items. It’s survival of the fittest on the new SAT Math section. For example:
5. If , then what is the value of ?
(A) 512
(B) 251
(C) 128
(D) –10
(E) –261
Many new functions feature graphs too. If you see an item with a bunch of graphs and no geometry figures around, the best bet is that it’s a new function item.
We cover each of the items and provide you with powerful step methods and strategies so you are prepared to answer any item you encounter.
Help | Feedback | Make a request | Report an error