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Algebra 1
In this section we will look at
- the meaning of symbols
- the language of algebra
- substituting numbers into algebraic expressions
- simplifying algebraic expressions
- the meaning of equations
- rearranging equations
- solving equations

Helping you practice


At the end of the sheet there are some questions for you to practice.
Dont worry if you cant do these but do try to think about them. This
practice should help you improve. I find I often make mistakes the
first few times I practice, but after a while I understand better.

Videos
All the examples in this worksheet and all the answers to questions
are available as answer sheets or videos.

Good luck and enjoy!


Videos and more worksheets are available in other formats from
www.mathsupport.wordpress.com
www.mathsupport.wordpress.com Jackie Grant, Birkbeck College, 2012
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1. The meaning of symbols


Symbols are everywhere. Most people recognise symbols such as

etc.

But other symbols are not so familiar

etc.

The important thing is not to panic if you see a new symbol.


When you do see a new symbol, you first need to find out what it means. Often
the question or the context will tell you what a symbol represents.
Here is an example. If the symbol means one biscuit, then we can ask how
many biscuits Joshua eats in a day. Suppose he has two with his morning tea
and 3 during a meeting and 1 at home in the evening. We can write the number
of biscuits in this day as

2 + 3 +1
where represents 1 biscuit. This is algebra!
We can then simplify this, since 2 biscuits and 3 biscuits and another biscuit is
6 biscuits, so we can write

2 + 3 + 1 = 6
Notice though that it doesnt matter what symbol we use. As long as we state
what the symbol means. So now lets use the letter a to represent one biscuit.
Now we write 2 biscuits plus 3 biscuits plus 1 biscuit equals 6 biscuits as

2a + 3a +a = 6a
Notice that a on its own is the same as 1a. We could also have used z

2z + 3z + z = 6z
Or any other letter, lets use the Greek letter theta (pronounced th eater )

2 + 3 + = 6
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Practice and the negative sign


Now we look at examples that include two or more different symbols and we
will use the negative sign.
Example 1. 3 friends order breakfast in a cafe. The first asks for 2 sausages,
one egg and one piece of toast. The second person asks for 1 sausage, 2 eggs
and three pieces of toast and the third person asks for 1 sausage, 1 egg and 3
pieces of toast. We want to calculate the total amount of food
Lets use S for a sausage, E to represent an egg, and T for one piece of toast
Person 1 orders 2S + 1 E + 1T
Person 2 orders 1S + 2E + 3T
Person 3 orders 1S + 1E + 3T
If we add these all together we get

2S + 1E + 1T + 1S + 2E + 3T + 1S + 1E + 3T
Notice we can simplify this and write the whole breakfast order as

4S + 4E + 7T
Which means the total amount is 4 sausages, 4 eggs, and 7 pieces of toast.
Example 2. Suppose you work for a large company and need to know how
many boxes of paper and envelopes are in stock. You count 50 boxes of paper
in one office, 20 boxes of paper in the next and 30 boxes in a third office. You
also count 7 boxes of envelopes, but someone then takes 4 of the boxes of
envelopes and 10 boxes of paper to use.
Using p for each box of paper and e for each box of envelopes we can write

50p + 20p + 30p + 7e 10p 4e


Where the 10p and the 4e represents the fact that someone is going to use
up 10 boxes of paper and 4 boxes of envelopes. Simplifying this gives

90p + 3e
So the total amount is 90 boxes of paper and 3 boxes of envelopes.

www.mathsupport.wordpress.com Jackie Grant, Birkbeck College, 2012


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Language
Here we will look at the meanings of five key words used in algebra. These are:
expression, constant, variable, operation and simplify.
Expression: In algebra we often put different things together in a list.

50p + 20p +30p + 7e 10p 4e


This list is called an expression or an algebraic expression. We officially
define an expression as a combination of constants, variables and operations.
Constants: are things that do not change (for example the number 30)
Variables: are the symbols that can vary (which means change)or can
represent a variety of things (for example E, T, y, are variables and could
mean eggs or elephants, or the price of cheese)
Operations: are things you do such as adding or subtracting (+, , x and )
Simplify: A question might ask you to simplify the algebraic expression

50p + 20p +30p + 7e 10p 4e


in which case we would write

100p + 7e 10p 4e = 90p 3e


Here we have shown each step of our working, and the final line 90p 3e is
the algebraic expression in its simplest possible form.

2. Substitution
Here we introduce anther common word substitution. Substitution is used
when we know the value of our variables (or symbols).
Example: if we order four cups of tea and two cakes we can write the cost as

4T + 2C
Where T means the cost of a cup of tea, and C means the cost of a cake. If
someone then tells us that a cup of tea is 1 and each cake is 1.50 then we
can substitute these values into our algebraic expression.
www.mathsupport.wordpress.com Jackie Grant, Birkbeck College, 2012
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Remembering that 4T means four lots of tea, or 4 times T or 4 x T, and 2C


similarly means 2 cakes or 2 x C. So this substitution can be written as

4T + 2C = 4 x 1 + 2 x 1.50
We can then calculate the total using BIDMAS rules. (If you want to review the
BIDMAS rules visit the Numbers section at www.mathsupport.wordpress.com)

4T + 2C = 4 x 1 + 2 x 1.50 = 4 + 3 = 7
We have also shown each step of our working here.

3. More on simplifying
We will now start to use all the operations of BIDMAS with algebra. Remember
that BIDMAS tells you the order of each operation. It is short for Brackets,
Indices, Division and Multiplication, Addition and Subtraction.
Example 1: There are 3 tables of customers in a cafe. The people at the first
table order 2 lasagnes and one salad. The second table orders 3 lasagnes,
each with chips and the third table orders 2 salads, each with chips. Lets use L
for lasagne, S for salad and C for chips. We can then write
Table 1 orders 2L + S and table 2 orders 3(L + C) and table 3 orders 2(S + C)
Remember the brackets in 2(S + C) mean that there are two lots of salad and
two lots of chips. We can add these together to get an expression for the total

2L + S + 3 (L+C) + 2 (S+C)
Since whatever is outside the bracket multiplies everything inside the brackets,

2(S + C) means 2x(S + C), which is 2S + 2C. So multiplying out brackets gives
2L + S + 3L + 3C + 2S + 2C
This can then be simplified further by combining all the Ls, Ss and Cs to get

5L + 3S + 5C
This is the same as the original expression, but now in its simplest form.
Here are some more worked examples. Since we are practicing simplifying
now, so we will just consider the expressions without explaining the symbols.
www.mathsupport.wordpress.com Jackie Grant, Birkbeck College, 2012
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Example 2: Write the following expression in its simplest form

4z 8y 8(z 2 y)
We start with the brackets (remember the order is BIDMAS)

4z 8y 8z + 16y
Notice that the 8 outside the bracket multiplies both the terms in the brackets,
and since negative multiplied by negative gives positive, we have + 16y. There
are no indices, multiplication or division that can be simplified, so we add and
subtract to get

4z + 8y

Example 3: Here we include indices (remember 52 = 5 x 5, so z2 = z x z )

4z2 + 8y 8(z + 2y)


Again we want to simplify and starting with multiplying out the brackets we get

4z2 + 8y 8z 16y
We have to be careful because z2 is different to z. So 4z2 and 8z cannot be
added. But we can add the 8y and the 16y. So the simplified expression is

4z2 8z 8y

Example 4: Write the following expression in its simplest form

4y2 + 2y 2(y 4) 8 + (4y)2


There is a lot in this expression so we need to be careful. Start by asking if we
can simplify the brackets. The first brackets 2(y 4) simplifies to 2y + 8
and the second (4y)2 is the same as 42y2 which is 16y2. So we can write

4y2 + 2y 2y + 8 8 + 16y2
We can only add or subtract y with other y (we cant add or subtract y with an

y2). So the 2y 2y gives zero and 8 8 gives zero and we get the simplest
version of the original expression as

20y2
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Example 5: Write the following expression in its simplest for

This expression has a lot in it. But dont panic.


We can consider this expression to be in three sections (these sections are
called terms). The first term is a fraction and we look to see if anything on the
top of the fraction cancels with anything on the bottom of the fraction.
To start we write out the first term in full to help us simplify:

were we have cancelled the common terms (in red). To revise cancelling
fractions visit the Numbers section at www.mathsupport.wordpress.com
Simplifying the second term gives:
where we have just multiplied out brackets. The third term

cannot be

simplified, so we leave it as it as and now combine all three terms to get

This can be simplified further because we have four lots of


one, and three

plus another

minus another one. So the simplest form is

Example 6: Write the following expression in its simplest form

Here we multiply out the brackets and simplify, showing our workings as

Practice is the key: Like all things, if you practice it will help your understanding.
There are exercises below to help you (answers will full workings are available)
so dont worry if you dont get the right answers first time.
www.mathsupport.wordpress.com Jackie Grant, Birkbeck College, 2012
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4. Equations
Here we start dealing with equations. Equations are two algebraic expressions
linked by an equals sign. The equal sign means that the two expressions have
the same value, in other words they balance. Here are some examples
Equation example 1:

T = 6.00
This could mean that the price of a t-shirt (T) is 6.00, or the time (T) is 6.00am.
It is the simplest type of equation as it has one variable T on the left-hand side
and the value for it on the right-hand side.
Equation example 2:

2T y = 10
Here we have two variables T and y. This could mean that the price of 2 t-shirts
minus a discount y is 10. We cant tell the value of T or y from this equation on
its own, but if we know either T or y we can calculate the other value
Equation example 3:

E = mc2
This is a famous equation first written by Einstein who used the symbols E for
energy, m for mass and c for the speed of light.
Equation example 4:

This is the equation used for calculating the average ( ) of 4 values of . Where
the first value is

and the second valued

and so on. This equation and

others like it are used a lot in statistics, and will be covered in the Statistics
section at www.mathsupport.wordpress.com
Key point: The important thing about an equation is that there are two
expressions (one on the right-hand side and one on the left-hand side). These
expressions are linked by the equals sign and so both expressions have the
same value.
www.mathsupport.wordpress.com Jackie Grant, Birkbeck College, 2012
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5. Re-arranging and solving equations


Because the expressions on each side of an equation are equal, we can say
they are balanced. As long as we keep the equation balanced we can move the
variables, constants and operations around to find different things.
It is very useful to re-arrange equations and we will see why in a minute.
One way to picture this re-arranging and balancing is to imagine a see-saw. If
the see-saw is level then left-hand side balances with the right-hand side. Using
the equation 2T y = 10 we can draw this balancing as

2T y

equals

10

We can now follow the BIDMAS rules and do anything to the see-saw as long
as we do the same to both sides as this will keep the see-saw balanced.
Keeping the see-saw balanced means that we keep everything on the righthand side equal to everything on the left-hand side: so the equation is still valid.
In the following steps we are going to add and subtract using the BIDMAS rules
to re-arrange the equation to find y. We need to add and subtract things to get
the y on its own and positive, there are many ways to do this. Here is one way
Step 1: Since y is negative and on the left-hand side, we can remove it from the
left-hand side by adding y to both sides, this would give us

2T y + y = 10 + y
Step 2: Since y + y is zero, simplifying the expression gives

2T = 10 + y
Step 3: We now have y + 10 on the right-hand side and if we remove the 10 we
will have y on its own, which is what we want. To remove the 10 which is
adding, we need to do the opposite, which is subtracting. So we subtract 10
from the right-hand side, but to keep the see-saw balanced we have to do this
to both sides

2T 10 = 10 + y 10
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Step 4: Since 10 + y 10 is just y , simplifying gives

2T 10 = y
Step 5: Since both sides are still equal we can swap them over, giving

y = 2T 10
So we started out with 2T y = 10 and re-arranged to get y = 2T 10. Both
equations represent the same thing, but in the final version y is the subject.
Example: Re-arrange the following to make z the subject

y = 3z +7
We want to remove everything from around the z on the right-hand side, so that
just the z remains on its own.
Step 1: Remove the +7. To do this we subtract from both sides, shown in red:

y 7 = 3z +7 7
Simplifying then gives

y 7 = 3z
Step 2: We now want to remove the 3 that is multiplying the z. To do this we
divide both sides by 3 (shown in red) as this is the opposite of multiplying by 3.

Simplifying the right-hand side is simple, as the 3s cancel to leave z. The lefthand side cannot be simplified, but we can swap the two sides around to give

Note that we could also write this as

If you want to review and practice working with fractions visit the Numbers
section of www.mathsupport.wordpress.com
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Harder Example: Here we follow the steps of another example.


The formula to convert temperature in Celsius (
Fahrenheit (

) to temperature in

) is

We can re-arrange this to make temperature in Celsius the subject. The aim is
to get

on its own, so we need to remove the variables and constants from

around

. From the BIDMAS rules we know that Multiplication (

before the Addition (

) happens

). So when removing things we need to work in

reverse order.
Step 1: We first remove the
to subtract

from the right-hand side. To do this we have

from each side, this is shown in red and gives

Simplifying gives

Step 2: Now we want to remove the

which multiplies the

several ways to do this. We can multiply both sides by

. There are

which is the same as

dividing both sides by . We show this multiplication of both sides in red

Notice the brackets on the left-hand side; we include these because we need to
multiply EVERYTHING on the left-hand side by .
Simplifying gives

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Notice that we have dropped the multiplication sign outside the bracket on the
left-hand side. Also that the right-hand side simplifies to just
is the same as one. We can now swap the sides, so that

because
is the subject,

It can help to work through algebra re-arranging in steps like this. Remember if
you want to make a variable the subject of an equation, you need to remove all
the variables and constants from around it using the BIDMAS rules.

6. Solving equations
To solving an equation we use the same method as re-arranging equations.
The only difference is that there is just one variable, so you can re-arrange the
equation to find the numerical value of this variable. This is called solving.
Example 1: Solve the following equation to find

We want to make
the

the subject so we need to remove everything from around

on the left-hand side.

Step 1: we first want to remove the

from the left-hand side. Since the

opposite of subtracting

we

is adding

to both sides.

We now simplify this to get

Which is the solution, so only needed one step. The great thing about maths is
we can always check our answer. To do this we substitute
original equation. This gives

This is correct, so we know that our answer

is right.

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into the

Example 2: This is a slightly harder example. We want to solve the following


equation to find

To do this we need to make

the subject, so need to remove the variables,

constants and operations from around the .


Step 1: add

to both sides (this will remove the

from the left-hand side)

Simplifying gives

Step 2: multiply both sides by

(which is the opposite of dividing by )

Simplifying gives

This is the answer! As in the previous example we can check that this is correct.
To do this we substitute

into the original equation. This gives

We can simplify this, which gives

We can see that this is correct, so we know that

is the right answer.

The key to being able to solve equations is to practicing re-arranging. So try to


practice regularly. Start with the following exercises. Good Luck!

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7. Now your turn


Generally the more maths you practice the easier it gets. If you make mistakes
dont worry. I generally find that if I make lots of mistakes I understand the
subject better when I have finished. If you want to see videos explaining these
ideas and showing the answers visit www.mathsupport.wordpress.com
A) Starting simplifying
1) 2a + 3a

6) 2z 7z + 4y + 2y

2) 7a 3a

7) a2 3a2 + b 4b

3) 8z + 1z + 5a

8) a2 3a2 + a 4a

4) 5a + 10a 2z

9) b2 3b2 + 4b b

5) 2a a 8a

10) z2 3a2 + b 4a

B) 4a2 + 2b 7a +3b + 8b 9 (a 2) + 18
1) List all the constants in the expression written above
2) List all the variables in the expression written above
3) Write the algebraic expression above in its simplest form

C) Substitution
Substitute values into the expressions below to calculate the total value of the
expression: a = 7, b = -2 , y = 3, z = 1. Note you should get the same answers
if you substitute the values into your answers for part A).
1) 2a + 3a

6) 2z 7z + 4y + 2y

2) 7a 3a

7) a2 3a2 + b 4b

3) 8z + 1z + 5a

8) a2 3a2 + a 4a

4) 5a + 10a 2z

9) b2 3b2 + 4b b

5) 2a a 8a

10) z2 3a2 + b 4a

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D) Practicing simplifying the following expressions using the BIDMAS rules


1) 2 (z + 2) + 8

7)

2) 3(z 2) 2(z + 3)

8) 2 (z2 2) + (2z)2 + 4

3) 3(a 2) 2(b 3)

9)

4) 2 (z2 2) + 2(z 4)
5)
6) 2 (y2 2) + (2 y)2 + 4

10)
11) 3a(b a2) a2(2 3a)
12)

E) Re-arrange each of these equations to make

the subject

1) b + 4 = a

7) 2 (b2 2) = 4

2) 4b = y

8) 4 = b +2y

3) 4b = y + a

9)

4) 3b y = 2a
5) 3b a = 5a
6) 3(b a) = 9a

10)
11)
12)

F) Solve each of these equations to find


1) b + 2 = 8

7) 3(2 b) = 12

2) 3b 2 = 7

8)

3) 3(b 2) = 9

9) 3(b 2) + 2b = 9

4)

10)

5) b + 2 = 8

11) 3( b 2) = 9

6) b2 9 = 7

12)

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G) Some word questions


1) Using T to represent the price of a cup of tea and C to represent the price of
a cup of coffee write an equation to show that 2 cups of tea and 3 cups of
coffee cost 5.40
a) One cup of tea costs 1.20. Substitute this value into your equation and
simplify.
b) Solve this equation to find the price of one cup of coffee.

2) The formula for calculating the time taken to cook a turkey is

where T is the time in minutes needed to cook a turkey, and p is the weight in
pounds.
a) How many minutes does it take to cook a 10 pound turkey
b) Re-arrange the equation to make p the subject, and then calculate how
many pounds the turkey is if the cooking time is 4 hours.
2) The total cost of borrowing money can be calculated using the formula

Where

is the number of years the money is borrowed for, is the interest rate

as a decimal,

is the amount of money borrowed and

is the total amount

that is repaid.
a) If the amount borrowed is 10,000, the interest rate is 5% (or 0.05 as a
decimal) and the number of years is 10. Calculate the total amount that is
repaid.
b) Re-arrange the equation to make the subject, and then calculate the
interest rate needed if the amount borrowed is 1,000, the number of years
is 3 and the total amount to be repaid is 10,000.
All answers and workings are available at www.mathsupport.wordpress.com

www.mathsupport.wordpress.com Jackie Grant, Birkbeck College, 2012


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