algebra, branch of mathematics concerned with operations on sets of numbers or other elements that are often represented by symbols. Algebra is a generalization of arithmetic and gains much of its power from dealing symbolically with elements and operations (such as addition and multiplication) and relationships (such as equality) connecting the elements. Thus, a+ a=2 a and a+ b= b+ a no matter what numbers a and b represent.
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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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