## Thursday, September 29, 2011

### Factoring Calculator - Algebra: Getting a Toe in the Water

Algebra: Getting a Toe in the Water

When a student has finally climbed their way up the mathematical ladder and begun to study Algebra, concepts really begin to become abstract for the first time. With this educational leap, there are mathematical aides, that thanks to technology, that are assisting students as they make their way deeper into a scientific and mathematically based world. Calculators have advanced to the point that they are capable of dealing with more than elementary equations. This is a good thing, because as we enter the world of algebra we begin to deal with 'expressions' that require comparisons, factoring, and other various forms of calculations, depending on the level of complexity. An expression factoring calculator basically works by quickening the processes that done by hand, would take much longer for the normal person.

An expression is entered into a calculator and the device expands any relevant multiplication and combines like terms. In the next step, the software attempts to divide the expression using the greatest common factor and subsequently identifying a difference between two squares. There are a few guidelines that you can follow when entering expressions into a factoring calculator that will help to ensure you with accurate results. The first is that any lowercase letter may be used as your variable. It can be something other than simply 'x' and 'y'! Exponents often arise when entering expressions and these are only properly supported when using the caret symbol (^). It is also important to note that exponents MUST be positive integers. Parentheses as well as brackets can be used when grouping the expressions that you enter into your calculator. Another common mistake that people make is the use of the multiplication symbol. Multiplication should be indicated with this symbol '*.' However, when multiplying a number by a variable such as '2x,' the symbol can be left out. The addition and subtraction symbols are used in the conventional methods.

When using an expression factoring calculator, it is essential that you are familiar with the standard order of operations that are traditionally taught in any algebra class. This will be the order of operations that the machine uses to make its calculations. The majority of algebra text books state them in the following sequence: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, and finally division, addition, and subtraction. For those students that do no have a factoring calculator at their disposal, there are multiple online sites such as Solvemymath.com and Freemathhelp.com that offer online factoring calculators for use and also tips on how to solve the problems using long-hand. There are many elements that are present in a standard store-bought calculator that are not available online. Such common limitations include placing exponents onto parentheses and brackets or unconventional uses of division. However, there are also sites that can handle complex calculations that your traditional calculator will not, such as polynomial factoring and square root calculations. It is essential that you choose your educational aid based on your mathematical needs. Whatever source you may choose, it is important that as a student, you understand the concepts behind the equations before moving on to using automated processes to solve the mathematical equations.

Once you have mastered these concepts and equations, you can feel free to move onto their applications and more complex expressions. Graphing expressions and systems of equations can help to bring these concepts to light in a manner that addresses their real world applications and thus increase the potential motivation for a student to learn these mathematical concepts. As with most mathematical procedures, the key to retaining the information is repetition. One of the prime advantages of some online resources such as those discussed above, is the amount of material that they make available to the student for practice use. The answers are also available so that any mistakes by the student can be noted and understood. Understanding these baby steps in algebra can help your students form a strong base for their future using math and science.