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Simplifying Expressions


The Number Properties - Commutative Property, Associative Property, and Distributive Property - can also be used to simplify algebraic expressions.

Related Topics: More Algebra Lessons

Combining Like Terms

An algebraic expression consisting of two or more like terms can be simplified by combining like terms.

Like terms are terms that have the same variable part i.e. they only differ in their coefficients.

For example:

2x and –5x are like terms

a and 1/2 a are like terms

6x and 5y are unlike terms

Like terms can be added or subtracted from one another.

Example :

Simplify the expressions:

a) 14x + 5x

b) 5y – 13y

c) p – 3p


a) 14x + 5x = (14 + 5)x = 19x

b) 5y – 13y = (5 –13)y = –8y

c) p – 3p = (1 – 3)p = – 2p

To simplify an algebraic expression that consists of both like and unlike terms, it might be helpful to first move the like terms together. (When moving the terms, we must remember to move the + or – attached in front of them).

For example,

3x + 2y – 2x + 6

= 3x2x + 2y + 6

= (3 2)x + 2y + 6

= x + 2y + 6


Simplify 3x + 2a – 4x


3x + 2a – 4x

=3x– 4x + 2a

= (3 4)x + 2a

= –x + 2a

The following videos show some examples of simplifying expressions by combining like terms.

Simplify Algebraic Expressions - Combine Like Terms.

Simplify an Algebraic Expression by Combining Like Terms.
This video shows how to simplify a couple of algebraic expressions by combining like terms by adding, subtracting, and using distribution.

Rotate to landscape screen format on a mobile phone or small tablet to use the Mathway widget, a free math problem solver that answers your questions with step-by-step explanations.

You can use the free Mathway calculator and problem solver below to practice Algebra or other math topics. Try the given examples, or type in your own problem and check your answer with the step-by-step explanations.

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