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### What is Algebra?

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Date: 08/24/97 at 21:56:12
From: Kathryn Bowser
Subject: Algebra

Ok, I know this may seem stupid but I really haven't started to do
actual algebra in school.  I was wondering if u might write back and
explain from ground on if it not to much trouble.  thanx.
Kathryn Bowser

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```
Date: 08/25/97 at 14:50:50
From: Doctor Ken
Subject: Re: Algebra

Hi Kathryn -

Wow, that's a pretty tall order.  It would be pretty difficult for me
to try to explain high school algebra from the beginning!  But there's
nothing wrong with you asking the question.

Let me start by trying to say what algebra is. This is kind of hard,
because different people mean somewhat different things when they say
algebra (a professional mathematician might mean something different
different aspects of the same kind of thing).

But here's my simplistic view: algebra is the class where you learn
how to work with "unknown quantities."

For instance, let's look at a simple math problem: Kathryn has 22
dollars, which is 4 more dollars than Momma Bowser.  How much money
does Momma Bowser have?

In algebra, you learn to write "equations" to solve problems like
these. Here's an equation for that problem: 22 = 4 + M . M represents
the amount of money Momma Bowser has. In algebra, you learn how to
solve problems like that, to get the answer: M = 18.

If you want more algebra stuff, you might try looking at our Algebra
sections on the Web:

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/tocs/algebra.middle.html
and
http://mathforum.org/dr.math/tocs/algebra.high.html

Good luck!

-Doctor Ken,  The Math Forum
Check out our web site!  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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Associated Topics:
Middle School Algebra

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