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Algebra: Encountering Expressions

Encountering Expressions

The fateful hour has come. Tension hangs thickly in the air like a big, fat seagull. The world, as one, holds its breath as its population understands, though only subconsciously, that something big is about to happen. Little children look toward the horizon expectantly, trying to catch a glimpse of what is to come. Dogs bark without cease, straining at their leashes to run, catching the scent of revolution in the air. Nerds everywhere stop memorizing lines from Monty Python movies for a moment, sensing mathematical evolution.

How's that for dramatic buildup? Perhaps it's a little overstated, but everything you used to know about math is going to change, so I thought it fitting. From this point forward, every section is going to contain a little less of the familiar, and will be further removed from the friendly and familiar world of numbers and arithmetic. It's time to get algebratized.

Take a deep breath, and then wade with me out into the cool but shallow waters of algebraic expressions. We'll spend a little time here during this section, until you get used to the water temperature. Before long, though, you'll be swimming in water too deep to stand up in, and you'll wonder why you never thought you'd be able to do it.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Algebra © 2004 by W. Michael Kelley. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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