How to simplify algebraic expressions.
Algebraic expressions contain alphabetic symbols as well as numbers. When an algebraic expression is simplified, an equivalent expression is found that is simpler than the original. This usually means that the simplified expression is smaller than the original.
There is no standard procedure for simplifying all algebraic expressions because there are so many different kinds of expressions, but they can be grouped into three types:
(a) those that can be simplified immediately without any preparation.
(b) those that require preparation before being simplified.
(c) those that cannot be simplified at all.
2x + 3y -
2 + 3x + 6y + 7
This expression can be simplified by identifying like terms and then grouping and combining like terms, like this:
· +2x and +3x are like terms, and can be combined to give +5x,
· +3y and +6y combine to give +9y, and
· -2 and +7 combine to give +5.
So after simplifying, this expression becomes:
5x + 9y
- 6b + 2) + b
The brackets in this expression can be removed first, then the expression may be simplified like example 1 above, OR the like terms: +4b and -6b inside the brackets can be combined to give -2b before removing the brackets. This is what Algematics will do if you use the simplify command on this expression. (The next article will show you how to make Algematics remove the brackets first.)
· Simplifying the bracketed expression we have:
(-2b + 2) + b
There is a minus sign before the left bracket, so the sign of each term inside the brackets will change when the brackets are removed:
· Removing the brackets:
3b + 2b - 2 + b
· Grouping and combining the like terms: +3b, +2b and +b combine to give 6b:
6b - 2
Expressions that are products and quotients of simple factors that include powers with the same base can be simplified immediately by adding and subtracting the indices of the powers.
This expression simplifies to give: 4p²q³
We will use Algematics to simplify each of the example expressions above. Then you will be able to simplify similar expressions yourself.
Step 1 Enter the data
type your expression into the maths box in the data entry dialog box. If the
‘EMPTY’ message is not displayed between the blue buttons, click the
until the message: ‘INSERT’ appears.
and then click
Step 2 Use the Simplify command
Click (simplify) repeatedly until the expression is completely simplified.
If the expression is not changed by the simplify command, then either it is completely simplified, or you need to use another approach. (See the companion topic: Simplify expressions (Advanced) )
NOTE: If you simplify two many times, you will duplicate the last step. You can delete a duplicate step by selecting it, then using Ctrl+Delete on the keyboard.
To display a step where brackets are removed, as for example 2 above, click (expand).