Here’s an example of a number line:
Negative numbers can mess with your head. Looking at the
number line, you can see that –2 is greater than –5, but your mind
doesn’t like this because it’s used to positive numbers, and 5 is
greater than 2. The SAT loves to set traps like this using negative
numbers. Be vigilant.
You also need to know how multiplying and dividing negative
numbers affect an equation. Study this chart and memorize the eight
An item that includes negative numbers and parentheses
can be tricky:
When you see a negative sign before parentheses, you need
to distribute the negative across the parentheses.
So –(2 – 6) becomes –2 + 6:
4 + 2 – (2 – 6) =
4 + 2 – 2 + 6 = 10
The cure to negative numbers is absolute value.
The absolute value of a number is the distance between any given
number on the number line and zero. This distance is never negative.
If you’re traveling from 3, the distance from 3 to zero
is three spaces. If you’re traveling from –3 to zero, the distance
is also 3 spaces, so the absolute value of –3 is 3. So for positive
numbers, the absolute value is the same as the number itself. For
negative numbers, the absolute value is the positive version of
Absolute value is written using two thin bars:
In an equation, absolute value brackets work like positive
parentheses. You have to work whatever’s inside the absolute value
brackets first, but if you get a negative number, you have to convert
it to a positive number when taking it out of the absolute value