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Single Variable Expressions

Use symbols and operations to understand and define variables.

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Single Variable Expressions
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Shelly is making bracelets to sell at her town's market this summer. She spent $150 on supplies and will make $4 for every bracelet she sells. Her profit for selling b bracelets is given by the expression 4b150. How can Shelly calculate her profit if she sells 50 bracelets this summer?

In this concept, you will learn how to evaluate single variable expressions.

Expressions

An expression is a mathematical phrase that contains numbers and operations.

Here are some examples of expressions:

  •   3x+10   
  • 15+71
  • 521
  •  15r+2 

A variable is a symbol or letter (such as x,m,R,y,P, or a) that is used to represent a quantity that might change in value. A variable expression is an expression that includes variables. Another name for a variable expression is an algebraic expression.

Here are some examples of variable expressions:

  • 3x+10
  • 10r
  • b3+2
  • mx3

A single variable expression is a variable expression with just one variable in it.

You can use a variable expression to describe a real world situation where one or more quantities has an unknown value or can change in value.

To evaluate a variable expression means to find the value of the expression for a given value of the variable. To evaluate, substitute the given value for the variable in the expression and simplify using the order of operations. To follow the order of operations, you always need to do any multiplication/division first before any addition/subtraction.

Here is an example.

Evaluate the expression 10k44 for k=12.

First, remember that when you see a number next to a letter, like “10k”, it means to multiply.

Next, substitute 12 in for the letter k in the expression.

10(12)44

Notice that you can put parentheses around the 12 to keep it separate from the number 10.

Now, simplify the expression using the order of operations. You will need to multiply first and then subtract.

10(12)44==1204476

The answer is 76.

Here is another example that involves division.

Evaluate the expression x3+2 for x=24.

First, remember that a fraction bar is like a division sign. x3 is the same as x÷3.

Next, substitute 24 in for the letter x in the expression.

243+2

Now, simplify the expression using the order of operations. You will need to divide first and then add.

243+2==8+210

The answer is 10.

Examples

Example 1

Earlier, you were given a problem about Shelly and her bracelet business. Shelly is selling bracelets this summer and her profit for selling b bracelets is given by the expression 4b150. Shelly wants to calculate what her profit will be if she sells 50 bracelets.

To calculate her profit from selling 50 bracelets, Shelly needs to evaluate the expression 4b150  for b=50.

First, substitute 50 in for the letter b in the expression.

4(50)150

Now, simplify the expression using the order of operations. You will need to multiply first and then subtract.

4(50)150==20015050

Shelly's profit from selling 50 bracelets would be $50.

Example 2

Evaluate x75 if x is 49.

First, substitute 49 in for the letter x in the expression.

4975

Now, simplify the expression using the order of operations. You will need to divide first and then subtract.

4975==752

The answer is 2.

Example 3

Evaluate 4x9 if x is 20.

First, substitute 20 in for the letter x in the expression.

4(20)9

Now, simplify the expression using the order of operations. You will need to multiply first and then subtract.

4(20)9==80971 

The answer is 71.

Example 4

Evaluate 5y+6 if y is 9.

First, substitute 9 in for the letter y in the expression.

5(9)+6

Now, simplify the expression using the order of operations. You will need to multiply first and then add.

5(9)+6==45+651

The answer is 51.

Example 5

Evaluate a48 if a is 36.

First, substitute 36 in for the letter a in the expression.

3648

Now, simplify the expression using the order of operations. You will need to divide first and then subtract.

3648==981

The answer is 1.

Review

Evaluate each expression if the given value of r is 9.

1. r3

2. 63r

3. 11r

4. 2r+7

5. 3r+r

6. 4r2r

7. r+5r

8. 12r1

Evaluate each expression for h=12.

9. 703h

10. 6h+6

11. 4h9

12. 11+h4

13. 3h+h

14. 2h+5h

15. 6h2h

Answers for Review Problems

To see the Review answers, open this PDF file and look for section 1.4.  

Resources

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Vocabulary

Algebraic Expression

An expression that has numbers, operations and variables, but no equals sign.

Evaluate

To evaluate an expression or equation means to perform the included operations, commonly in order to find a specific value.

Expression

An expression is a mathematical phrase containing variables, operations and/or numbers. Expressions do not include comparative operators such as equal signs or inequality symbols.

Variable Expression

A variable expression is a mathematical phrase that contains at least one variable or unknown quantity.

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