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Introduction to algebra
Introduction to algebra

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Introduction to algebra


Please note: a Statement of Participation is not issued on this course.

This free OpenLearn course, Introduction to algebra, is an extract from the Open University module MU123 Discovering mathematics; an entry level module intended to enrich mathematical knowledge and understanding and to provide techniques and strategies to tackle mathematics problems. MU123 looks at a variety of mathematical topics such as numbers, statistics, graphs, algebra, trigonometry and associated techniques. It also introduces mathematical modelling and some problem-solving strategies.

Introduction to algebra consists of material from MU123 Unit 5, Algebra and has five sections in total. You should set aside between three to four hours to study each of the sections; the whole extract should take about 16 hours to study. The extract is a small part (around 7%) of a large module that is studied over eight months, and so can give only an approximate indication of the level and content of the full module.

The extract, which contains the first introduction to algebra in the MU123, is relatively self-contained and should be reasonably easy to understand for someone who has not studied any of the previous texts in the module. However, a few techniques and definitions taught in earlier units in MU123 are present in the extract without explanation. 

Mathematical/statistical content at the Open University is usually provided to students in printed books, with PDFs of the same online. This format ensures that mathematical notation is presented accurately and clearly. The PDF of this extract thus shows the content exactly as it would be seen by an Open University student. However, the extract isn't entirely representative of the module materials, because there are no explicit references to use of the MU123 software or to video material (although please note that the PDF may contain references to other parts of MU123). In this extract, some illustrations have also been removed due to copyright restrictions.

Regrettably mathematical and statistical content in PDF files is unlikely to be accessible using a screenreader, and some OpenLearn units may have PDF files that are not searchable. You may need additional help to read these documents.

Section 1 builds on the idea of using letters to represent numbers and looks at finding, simplifying and using formulas. Towards the end of this section you will see how you can use equations to answer mathematical questions. The section ends with some useful tips on how to learn algebra.

Section 2 introduces you to some of the terminology used in algebra and to the following techniques; evaluating expressions, checking equivalence of expressions, identifying terms in an expression and collecting like terms.

Section 3 looks at how to simplify terms and introduces you to index notation and multiplying powers.

Section 4 looks at the use of brackets in algebra and includes multiplying out and expanding brackets. This section also looks at algebraic fractions.

Section 5 covers linear equations and introduces you to solving, checking and using simple linear equations.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course MU123 Introduction to algebra [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .