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Defining Variables - Problem 1 10,869 views

Teacher/Instructor Alissa Fong
Alissa Fong

MA, Stanford University
Teaching in the San Francisco Bay Area

Alissa is currently a teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area and Brightstorm users love her clear, concise explanations of tough concepts

Writing an algebraic equation in words can help you better understand what the equation is asking you to find. In the equation m/4 = 5, instead of writing it out as "m over 4 equals 5", a more meaningful way to write it out is "some number 'm' divided by 4 is 5". Since "m" is the variable, the value is yet unknown, so it is "some number" that needs to be solved.

When you're first getting used to doing Math with letters a lot of times teachers ask you to do a middle step but before you do all the Mathy stuff, you change an equation into words. Here's an example, write the following equation in words, here it is.

One thing that a student may write is say like m over 4 equals 5. That's true, that's like what's going on in this equation except for it doesn't mean a whole lot mathematically. The better way to answer this question and to write a sentence would be to write some number, m stands for some number we don't know what it is, divided by 4 because a fraction means divide, divided by 4 is 5. Equals sign sometimes people replace with the word is to show that one thing is the other, it's like they're equal to each other.

So be careful when you guys get problems like this to use some number or any number, use those words to represent your letter, your variable and then also think about what a fraction means. A fraction really means dividing. So before you guys start doing the Math and finding out what number m really represents it can be really helpful and an excellent strategy to turn it into a sentence first.