WHAT IS ALGEBRA ? - EXAMPLES WITH A PATTERN - ARITHMETIC WITH LITERALS

Before proceeding further, see the Algebra page What is Algebra if you have not already done so.

You might have already studied numbers,operations on numbers and properties of numbers.you might have applied the knowledge to various problems.

The branch of mathematics in which you studied numbersis ARITHMETIC.

Let us see an example from Arithmetic.

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Another simple Example to understand What is Algebra :

Your mother has made some sweets. She wants to keep5 sweets for you, after distributing some sweetsto guests and family members.

How many sweets your mother should make

i) if she distributes 12 sweets to guests and family members. ii) if she distributes 15 sweets to guests and family members. iii) if she distributes 19 sweets to guests and family members. iv) if she distributes 25 sweets to guests and family members.

You answer is, i) The number of sweets mother should make = 12+5 = 17. ii) The number of sweets mothershould make = 15+5 = 20. iii) The number of sweets mothershould make = 19+5 = 24. iv) The number of sweets mothershould make = 25+5 = 30.

Are you ready to answer in a general way as, The number of sweets mother should make is: n+5 where 'n' stands for the number of sweets to guests and family members.

Suppose your mother wants to keep 10 sweets for youinstead of 5, then the answer is n+10. or if your mother wants to keep 25 sweets for you then the answer is n+25.

can you say the number of sweets mothershould make is: n+m where 'n' stands for the number of sweets to guests and family members and 'm' stands for the number of sweets for you.

Congratulations. You have caught the spirit of algebra.

Now, you are in a position to define Algebra.

Before defining, let us know the name given tothe letter symbols ( 'C' and 'N' in Example 1and 'n' and 'm' in Example 2 ) standing for numbers.

They are called literal numbers or simply literals.

Thus the question "What is Algebra ?" can be answered as

ALGEBRA is generalized arithmetic in whichnumbers are represented by letterscalled literal numbers or simply literals.

By using literals, we can talk about any numberand not just a particular number. This allows us to write rules and formulas in a general way.

Have you understood " What Is Algebra ?"

For further discussion on What is Algebra and links to Basic Algebra and other Algebra Topics, Go to

There, we will reinforce understanding What is Algebra, with some more Examples.

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