Algebra, which literally means “the reunion of broken parts,” is the foundation of many higher branches of mathematics. It is hard, if not impossible, to understand subjects such as geometry, trigonometry, physics, and calculus without the knowledge of the principles of algebra.
Algebra is like the advanced principle of simple arithmetic. We replace the unknown with letters and that will transform the arithmetic problem into an algebraic equation. For example, we write 5 + 2 = 7 in arithmetic and then we can write that into an algebraic expression as X + 2 = 7; solving for X will give us an answer of 5. We use letters so that the equations will become more flexible as the letters can contain any number, and we call them variables.
We use algebra in our everyday lives without actually knowing about it. From the time we wake up until we get back to bed and even during sleep, we use the principles of algebra.
Let us discuss algebra in two ways – the simple and the hard principles. Knowing these things will help us understand how this branch of mathematics helps us in different ways in our lives.
What is the first thing we do when we wake up in the morning? Many of us get a cup of coffee or have a bowl of cereal. Others take a shower or brush their teeth. Some will go for a jog or prepare a breakfast meal. All of these activities have one thing in common and that is algebra. For the coffee, we measure how many teaspoons of coffee beans, sugar, or creamer we put into a cup of water. The number of teaspoons can be represented by letters like A (coffee beans) + B (sugar) + C (creamer) = D (coffee). The taste of the coffee will differ depending on how many teaspoons of each of the ingredients will be mixed into the cup of water. This principle can be applied similarly with eating a bowl of cereal, using the right amount of shampoo for different types of hair, using enough toothpaste to properly brush teeth, the time spent for exercising to burn a specific amount of calories, and the preparation and cooking of different ingredients for the breakfast meal. These are the simple things we do when we unknowingly use the principles of algebra.
Throughout the day, the harder parts of algebra are being done mostly by machines that we are using. A car’s mechanism is synchronized by the equations calculated by the manufacturer. The exact amount of oil and oxygen will enter the piston of the engine before the spark plug will light the mixture in order to move the car. All the parts of the car will follow a set of specific equations for the car to run smoothly. Other equipment that we are using at home or in our workplaces is bound by following the algebraic equations calculated for them by the manufacturers. The air conditioning unit, the television, the mobile phone, the washing machine, the lift, the traffic lights, the computers, and so many others that we are using were made through algebraic equations one way or another.
We don’t need to be a mathematician to understand algebra because we are applying its principles in our daily activities.