Math CentralQuandaries & Queries


Question from Kelsey, a student:

I am having trouble trying to remember what like terms, constants, and coeficiants are. My math teacher
hasent been explaining it very well and i was wondering how to remember what they are, and what they are? I dont understand the concepts.

Thank You,

Hi Kelsey.

Examples would help. Let's say we are looking at the algebraic expression:

Expression: 2abc - 14d - e + 3.

Terms: there are four of them: "2abc", "-14d", "e", "3". Terms are the parts of an expression that you add together to create an expression.

Constants: These are terms with no variables, so they are a single number. In the expression above, "3" is the only constant. Sometimes we call it a "constant term".

Co-efficients: The number in a term that multiplies a variable (or set of variables). Thus, "2" is the co-efficient in the term "2abc" and "-14" is the co-efficient in the term "-14d" and "-1" is the implied co-efficient in "-e".

Some terms are quite complicated, particularly when they involve fractions and parentheses and aren't "reduced" to the simplest form. So it is appropriate to talk of expressions within expressions. For example, if I see the equation (an equation is simply two expressions that are equal to one another) here:


Then I can talk about "terms" within the (4r - 2), or (9+t) and so on.

I hope this helps.
Stephen La Rocque.

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