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Chapter 1 : Preliminaries

The purpose of this chapter is to review several topics that will arise time and again throughout this material. Many of the topics here are so important to an Algebra class that if you don’t have a good working grasp of them you will find it very difficult to successfully complete the course. Also, it is assumed that you’ve seen the topics in this chapter somewhere prior to this class and so this chapter should be mostly a review for you. However, since most of these topics are so important to an Algebra class we will make sure that you do understand them by doing a quick review of them here.

Exponents and polynomials are integral parts of any Algebra class. If you do not remember the basic exponent rules and how to work with polynomials you will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to pass an Algebra class. This is especially true with factoring polynomials. There are more than a few sections in an Algebra course where the ability to factor is absolutely essential to being able to do the work in those sections. In fact, in many of these sections factoring will be the first step taken.

It is important that you leave this chapter with a good understanding of this material! If you don’t understand this material you will find it difficult to get through the remaining chapters. Here is a brief listing of the material covered in this chapter.

Integer Exponents – In this section we will start looking at exponents. We will give the basic properties of exponents and illustrate some of the common mistakes students make in working with exponents. Examples in this section we will be restricted to integer exponents. Rational exponents will be discussed in the next section.

Rational Exponents – In this section we will define what we mean by a rational exponent and extend the properties from the previous section to rational exponents. We will also discuss how to evaluate numbers raised to a rational exponent.

Radicals – In this section we will define radical notation and relate radicals to rational exponents. We will also give the properties of radicals and some of the common mistakes students often make with radicals. We will also define simplified radical form and show how to rationalize the denominator.

Polynomials – In this section we will introduce the basics of polynomials a topic that will appear throughout this course. We will define the degree of a polynomial and discuss how to add, subtract and multiply polynomials.

Factoring Polynomials – In this section we look at factoring polynomials a topic that will appear in pretty much every chapter in this course and so is vital that you understand it. We will discuss factoring out the greatest common factor, factoring by grouping, factoring quadratics and factoring polynomials with degree greater than 2.

Rational Expressions – In this section we will define rational expressions. We will discuss how to reduce a rational expression lowest terms and how to add, subtract, multiply and divide rational expressions.

Complex Numbers – In this section we give a very quick primer on complex numbers including standard form, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing them.