**In This Chapter**

Defining algebra and laughing at its "complexity"

Boning up on algebra terms and operations

Meeting

*x*, the famous variableTesting out algebra in some real-world situations

Algebra is a branch of mathematics loved by a few and feared by many. Algebra is almost always in secondary education (high school) curriculums, but that doesn't mean everybody takes it. Some avoid it, and others who take it may come away scarred for life. Well, cut that out! You don't have to suffer from algebra-phobia. It's a simple part of math that gives you great control over your work.

The biggest concept is easy to grasp: in algebra, variables (which we cover in detail later in this chapter) are letters that represent numbers. That's it. And they only represent numbers until you solve a problem and replace the variables with numbers. As this chapter shows, you work on algebraic variables with the same math operations you use on numbers.

And why, you may well ask, should you care about these concepts? Because they're valuable in your everyday work. You may not even know when you're using algebra, but you can be sure pharmacy assistants, concrete contractors, computer techs, welders, cosmetologists, and roofers (to name just a few) calculate using algebra.

In this chapter, you get friendly with the names of the parts of an algebra statement. Then you go on to do simple (but essential) math operations.

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