Skip to main content

See also:

Literal equations and equations with absolute values

A literal equation is one with more than one variable. Finding the perimeter of a square is an obvious example of such a literal equation. In order to find the perimeter of a square, we have P = 2h + 2w. The three variables in question are P, h and w. Because there is more than one variable, it is known as a literal equation. In order to solve the equation P = 2h + 2w, we simply add -2h to both sides. This gives us P - 2h = 2w. We then multiply 1/2 to both sides. This leaves us with 1/2 (P - 2h) or w = P - 2h/2.

Let's look at equations with absolute values. One of the helpful ways to solve equations with absolute values is to solve them by rewriting them without the absolute value signs. For example, if we see the equation |3x + 1| = 10, we can simply rewrite it as 3x + 1 = 10. All this equation is saying is that 3x + 1 is 10 spaces away from 0 on a number line. The answer to the expression |3x + 10| must therefore be either 10 or -10. We can simply use trial and error to determine what numbers go in the x variable.