# The Basics of Algebra

Before you can really get into Algebra 1 and understand what’s going on, you have to understand the basics. These basics include a number of topics from arithmetic that will be used extensively in Algebra 1, so it’s really important that you know them well. If you take the time to understand these topics before you try to tackle more complicated subjects, then you’ll have a strong foundation for the rest of your education in mathematics.

One of the topics from basic mathematics that people think they understand when they really don’t is the order of operations. The order of operations tells us which order we should do things in when we have complicated mathematical equations. We need this standard order of operations so that people don’t get different answers for something as simple as 1 * 2 + 3. If you do it correctly, you should get 5, but if you do it incorrectly, you could get 6. If people went around getting different answers for equations, then mathematics wouldn’t have much use.

Another important topic to understand is the use of variables, and this is the basis of a lot of ideas in Algebra 1. A variable is a letter that takes the place of a number that either we don’t know or we want to keep open for various numbers to take its place. Sometimes we’re going to be solving for a specific variable, like if we have the equation 2x – 3 = 17. Other times we’re going to be looking at the nature of an equation with variables in it, like when we look at the graph created from the equation y = 3x + 2.

Exponents are another topic that should be understood before jumping into Algebra 1. While they aren’t difficult to understand by themselves, doing complicated operations using exponents can be tricky. If you know the few simple rules for dealing with exponents, then they can be made fairly simple.

Understanding the distributive property is super important for learning Algebra 1. Without understanding the distributive property, you will find yourself completely lost in a lot of common situations that come up. The distributive property is definitely worth putting a lot of effort into learning.

Order of Operations – If there are no parentheses to point out what to do first, the order of operations will tell you how to make sure you get the right answer.

Percentages – Having an even ground for comparison between different amounts is a critical skill.