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Basic Algebra


The content of this book is based on my own collection of notes while sitting examinations for EASA Part 66 B1 & B2 license. Algebra is a mathematical modeling system that we can use to determine unknown values called variables. We only need to look at the very basics, which can be used to solve problems in many areas of the design, manufacture, maintenance and operation of aircraft. So during the first exercise we will look at some simple equations and how to solve them. Those of you with a good understanding of algebra may wish to try the questions at the end of this section first, if you can answer all of the questions correctly then there is little point in reading the revision section. Some very commonly used formulas in aviation are algebraic equations such Voltage as: Resistance I = E/R or Current = Therefore if we know the value of I and R then we can re arrange the model to determine the value of E. E=IxR We can consider that an equation represents an argument for which both sides must be balanced.

Simple Equations
Algebra is a division of mathematics designed to help solve certain types of problems quicker and easier. Algebra is based on the concept of unknown values called variables, unlike arithmetic which is based entirely on known number values. This lesson introduces an important algebraic concept known as the Equation. The idea is that an equation represents a scale such as the one shown on the right. Instead of keeping the scale balanced with weights, numbers, or constants are used. These numbers are called constants because they constantly have the same value. For example the number 47 always represents 47 units or 47 multiplied by an unknown number. It never represents another value.

The equation may also be balanced by a device called a variable. A variable is an unknown number represented by any letter in the alphabet (often x). The value of each variable must remain the same in each problem. Several symbols are used to relate all of the variables and constants together. These symbols are listed and explained below. * / + () Multiply Multiply Divide Add or Positive Subtract or Negative Calculate what is inside of the parentheses first. (also called grouping symbols)

Basics of the Equation

The diagram on the right shows a basic equation. This equation is similar to problems which you may have done in ordinary mathematics such as: __ + 16 = 30 You could easily guess that __ equals 14 or do 30 - 16 to find that __ equals 14.

In this problem __ stood for an unknown number; in an equation we use variables, or any letter in the alphabet. When written algebraically the problem would be: x + 16 = 30 and the answer should be written: x = 14

Solving Equations

These equations can be solved relatively easy and without any formal method. But, as you use equations to solve more complex problems, you will want an easier way to solve them. Pretend you have a scale like the one shown. On the right side there are 45 pennies and on the left side are 23 pennies and an unknown amount of pennies. The scale is balanced, therefore, we know that there must be an equal amount of weight on each side. As long as the same operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc.) is done to both sides of the scale, it will remain balanced. To find the unknown amount of pennies of the left side, remove 23 pennies from each side of the scale. This action keeps the scale balanced and isolates the unknown amount. Since the weight(amount of pennies) on both sides of the scale are still equal and the unknown amount is alone, we now know that the unknown amount of pennies on the left side is the same as the remaining amount (22 pennies) on the right side.

Solving Equations

Because an equation represents a scale, it can also be manipulated like one. The diagram below shows a simple equation and the steps to solving it. Initial Equation / Problem x + 23 = 45

Subtract 23 from each side x + 23 - 23 = 45 - 23 Result / Answer x = 22

The diagram below shows a more complex equation. This equation has both a constant and a variable on each side. Again, to solve this you must keep both sides of the equation equal; perform the same operation on each side to get the variable "x" alone. The steps to solving the equation are shown below. Initial Equation / Problem: x + 23 Subtract x from each side Result = 2x + 45

x - x + 23 = 2x - x + 45 23 = x + 45 = x + 45 - 45 =x = -22

Subtract 45 from each side 23 - 45 Result -22 Answer x

Solving Equations
Take a look at the equation below. As you can see, after the variable is subtracted from the left and the constants are subtracted from the right, you are still left with 2x on one side. Initial Equation / Problem Subtract x from each side Result x + 23 = 3x + 45

x - x + 23 = 3x - x + 45 23 = 2x + 45

Subtract 45 from each side Result

23 - 45 -22

= 2x + 45 - 45 = 2x = -22

Switch the left and right sides of the equation 2x

This means that the unknown number multiplied by two, equals -22. To find the value of x, use the process "dividing by the coefficient" described on the next page.

Identifying and Using Coefficients

The coefficient of a variable is the number which the variable is being multiplied by. In this equation, 2 is the coefficient of x because 2x is present in the equation. Some additional examples of coefficients: Term 2x 0.24x x -x Coefficient of x 2 0.24 1 -1

Note that in the last two examples, the following rules are applied

If the variable has no visible coefficient, then it has an implied coefficient of 1. If the variable only has a negative sign, then it has an implied coefficient of -1.

Continue to the next page to see how we use the coefficient of the variable x in the equation, 2, to find the value of x.

Solving Equations
Using Division
Recall beginning to solve the equation "x + 23 = 3x + 45". Applying addition and subtraction gave (from previous page) 2x = -22 But our end goal is to determine what x is, not what 2x is! Imagine that three investors own an equal share in the company Example.Com. The total worth of Example.com is $300,000. To determine what the share of each investor is, simply divide the total investment by 3: $300,000 / 3 = $100,000 Thus, each investor has a $100,000 stake in Example.com. We apply the same idea to finding the value of x. However, instead of dividing by the number of investors, we divide by the coefficient of the variable. Since we determined that the coefficient of x is 2, we divide each side of the equation by 2: After dividing by 2 1x = -11 Finally rewritten as x = -11

Proportion Basics
A proportion is a special form of an algebra equation. It is used to compare two ratios or make equivalent fractions. A ratio is a comparison between two values. Such as the following:

1 apple: 3 oranges This ratio compares apples to oranges. It means for every apple there are 3 oranges. A proportion will help you solve problems like the one below. Jane has a box of apples and oranges in the ratio of 2:3. If she has six apples, how many oranges does she have? Before we begin to set up proportions for a word problem, we will concentrate on solving proportions. Remember, a proportion is a comparison between two ratios. The proportion shown below compares two ratios which are in the fraction form.
1 x - = 2 6

The four parts of the proportion are separated into two groups, the means and the extremes. The extremes are the very first number, and the very last number. This can be remembered because they are at the extreme beginning and the extreme end. The means are the second and third numbers. This can be remembered because mean is another word for average or in the middle. Both the means and the extremes are illustrated below.

Solving a Proportion
The illustration of the means and extremes is shown again for your reference.

Algebra properties tell us that the products of the means is equal to the product of the extremes. You should know that the fraction one-half is equal to two-fourths. This is shown as a proportion below.
1 2 - = 2 4

Because they are equal, the product of the means is equal to the product of the extremes, this is shown below.
2 * 2 = 1 * 4 4 = 4

Without knowing it, you probably used this property to tell whether a fraction was equal to, greater than, or less than another fraction. This property is extremely useful when one of the means or one of the extremes is unknown(It is unknown if it is blank or contains a variable such as x). The proportion below shows a proportion with an unknown mean.
1 x - = 2 6

Solving a Proportion
The problem is shown again for your reference.
1 x - = 2 6

To solve this, and find the value of x: write an equation, on the left side multiply the means, on the right side, multiply the extremes. Then solve the equation for x.
2 * x = 1 * 6 2x = 6 -2 2 x = 3 Divide each side by 2

Now you know that x is equal to 3. This means that

1 3 - is equal to 2 6

Solving a Proportion
5 15 - = -x 12

This time the variable is in a different position, but the same steps are used to solve it. Make an equation with the multiplication of the means on the left and the multiplication of the extremes on the right. Then solve it like we did below.
x * 15 = 5 * 12 15x = 60 ---- Divide each side by 15. 15 15 x = 4

Solving a proportion without a variable:

If you encounter a proportion that has one of its means or extremes left blank, or uses another symbol such as a question mark you can treat it as if it was a variable. Or you can replace the question mark or blank space with a variable such as x. See the example below.
9 90 - = -5 ? Becomes: 9 90 - = -5 x 5 * 90 = 9 * x 450 = 9x ---9 9 50 = x 50 = ?

Solving a proportion with two variables: A proportion with two of the same variable, can also be solved. Take the problem below for example.
25 x -- = x 1 25 * 1 = x * x 25 = x2

When you encounter a situation like the above, a variable squared equals a number, you can do one of two things. 1. Find what number squared is equal to 25. Use our perfect squares chart for reference. (or) 2. Change the problem to x = the squareroot of 25. The resulting number from either method will be equal to x and will be the answer. When a whole number is in place of a fraction: Take a look at the problem below, notice it doesn't have a fraction on one side.
x -- = 3 12

To solve this proportion, you have to change the whole number to a fraction, just as you did in math class, by putting it over a 1. The problem above would turn into the following:
x 3

-- = 12 1

It could then be solved like any other proportion.

Basic Word Problems

A word problem in algebra is the equivalent of a story problem in math. When you solved story problems in your math class you had to decide what information you had and what you needed to find out. Then you decided what operation to use. Addition was used to find a totals and subtraction was used to find changes in values. The approach to solve problems with algebra is usually quite different. Word problems are solved by separating information from the problems into two equal groups, one for each side of an equation. Examine this problem. Sara has 15 apples and 12 oranges. How many pieces of fruit does she have? We know that the sum of 15 and 12 is equal to the the total amount of fruit. As explained in the Basics of the Equation lesson, an unknown number or value is represented by a letter. The total number of pieces of fruit is unknown, so we will represent that amount with x. When the value that a particular variable will represent is determined, id is defined by writing a statement like, Let x = Total Amount of Fruit Once again, the sum of 15 apples and 12 oranges is equal to the total amount of fruit. This can be used to translate the problem into an equation, like the following: 15 + 12 = x The next step is to solve this equation. Now solve the equation which was created in the last step. Let x = Total Pieces of Fruit Initial Equation 15 + 12 = x =x

After combining like terms 27

The answer is then rewritten as a sentence. There are 27 Total Pieces of Fruit. By using simple arithmetic, this problem probably could have been solved faster without setting up an algebra equation. Knowing how to use an equation for this problem is important however, because it builds awareness of concepts which will are useful, and sometimes critical to solving much harder problems. One such problem will be presented in the next example. Examine this word problem. Two consecutive numbers have a sum of 91. What are the numbers?

Take notice, this problem has two numbers which are unknown, unlike the previous one which only had one unknown value. In order for this problem to be solved using basic algebra methods, we must set up an equation that has only one variable (such as x). Proceed to the next page to find out how this is done.

Consecutive Integer Word Problems

The problem is shown again below for reference. Two consecutive numbers have a sum of 91. What are the numbers? To begin solving this problem, define the variable. You do not know what the first consecutive number is, so you can call it x. Let x = The First Consecutive Number Since the numbers are consecutive, meaning one number comes right after the other, the second number must be one more than the first. So, x + 1 equals the second number. Let x + 1 = The Second Consecutive Number The problem says that the sum of the two numbers is 91. This can be shown in the equation like the following: x + (x + 1) = 91 The equation which you just wrote can be solved as follows: Initial Equation After combining like terms x + (x + 1) = 91 2x + 1 = 91 = 90 = 45

After subtracting 1 from each side 2x After dividing each side by 2 x

Consecutive Integer Word Problems

On the previous page, we determined that x = 45 The answer to the equation, shown above, must now be used to find the answer. Go back to the top of the paper you used to solve this problem. It should look like the work shown below. Let x = The First Consecutive Number Let x + 1 = The Second Consecutive Number Since you now know that x equals 45 and the First Consecutive Number equals x, you can show this in the work like we did below.

Let x = The First Consecutive Number = 45 Let x + 1 = The Second Consecutive Number Since x equals 45 and the Second Consecutive Number equals x + 1 you can simply add 1 to 45, to find that the Second Consecutive Number is 46. It should be shown like the work below. Let x = The First Consecutive Number = 45 Let x + 1 = The Second Consecutive Number = 46 This problem is now completed. If you did all of the work correctly, it should appear as ours does below.

Sample Problem Work

Let x = The First Consecutive Number = 45 Let x + 1 = The Second Consecutive Number = 46 x + (x + 1) = 91 2x + 1 2x x = 91 = 90 = 45

Go on to the next page to learn about what to do when you encounter more than two consecutive numbers, negative consecutives, and even or odd consecutives.

Variations of Consecutive Integer World Problems

More than 2 consecutive integers
Sometimes you will encounter a problem which has more than two consecutive numbers, such as the one below. When added, four consecutive numbers have a sum of 18. What are the numbers? You can solve this like the previous problem. The only difference is that you will have to define what each of the numbers is, like we did below. Take note, that each consecutive number is found by adding 1 to the previous number. Let x Let x + 1 Let x + 2 Let x + 3 = The First Consecutive Number = The Second Consecutive Number = The Third Consecutive Number = The Fourth Consecutive Number

Your equation will look like this. x + (x + 1) + (x + 2) + (x + 3) = 18

Negative consecutive integers

To solve problems which involve negative consecutive numbers, it is important that you ignore the negative sign and do not do anything differently. The sum of two consecutive integers is -9. What are the integers? Keep the variable x positive, as shown, so that the answer does not come out wrong. Let x = The First Consecutive Number Let x + 1 = The Second Consecutive Number Thus the equation will have the form x + (x + 1) = -9

Even or Odd Consecutive Numbers

The only difference between ordinary consecutive numbers and even or odd consecutive numbers is the space between each number. The next consecutive number after 16 can be found by adding 1. The next consecutive even number can be found by adding 2. Examine this problem Two consecutive even numbers have a sum of 30. What are the numbers? Since each even number is 2 away from the next, it is logical that you should define each number like the following Let x = The First Consecutive Even Number Let x + 2 = The Second Consecutive Even Number Leading to the equation x + (x + 2) = 30