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Instructional Resources

Series Info

Episodes: 26

Length: 30 min.

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Mathematics and Technology

Video on Demand
Teachers Guides
Web Resources


Algebra: In Simplest Terms

In this series, host Sol Garfunkel explains how algebra is used for solving real-world problems and clearly explains concepts that may baffle many students. Graphic illustrations and on-location examples help students connect mathematics to daily life. The series also has applications in geometry and calculus instruction.

Episode Guide

1. Introduction—An introduction to the series, this program presents several mathematical themes and emphasizes why algebra is important in today’s world.

2. The Language of Algebra—This program provides a survey of basic mathematical terminology. Content includes properties of the real number system and the basic axioms and theorems of algebra. Specific terms covered include algebraic expression, variable, product, sum term, factors, common factors, like terms, simplify, equation, sets of numbers, and axioms.

3. Exponents and Radicals—This program explains the properties of exponents and radicals: their definitions, their rules, and their applications to positive numbers.

4. Factoring Polynomials—This program defines polynomials and describes how the distributive property is used to multiply common monomial factors with the FOIL method. It covers factoring, the difference of two squares, trinomials as products of two binomials, the sum and difference of two cubes, and regrouping of terms.

5. Linear Equations—This is the first program in which equations are solved. It shows how solutions are obtained, what they mean, and how to check them using one unknown.

6. Complex Numbers—To the sets of numbers reviewed in previous lessons, this program adds complex numbers — their definition and their use in basic operations and quadratic equations.

7. Quadratic Equations—This program reviews the quadratic equation and covers standard form, factoring, checking the solution, the Zero Product Property, and the difference of two squares.

8. Inequalities—This program teaches students the properties and solution of inequalities, linking positive and negative numbers to the direction of the inequality.

9. Absolute Value—In this program, the concept of absolute value is defined, enabling students to use it in equations and inequalities. One application example involves systolic blood pressure, using a formula incorporating absolute value to find a person’s “pressure difference from normal.”

10. Linear Relations—This program looks at the linear relationship between two variables, expressed as a set of ordered pairs. Students are shown the use of linear equations to develop and provide information about two quantities, as well as the applications of these equations to the slope of a line.

11. Circle and Parabola—The circle and parabola are presented as two of the four conic sections explored in this series. The circle, its various measures when graphed on the coordinate plane (distance, radius, etc.), its related equations (e.g., center-radius form), and its relationships with other shapes are covered, as is the parabola with its various measures and characteristics (focus, directrix, vertex, etc.).

12. Ellipse and Hyperbola—The ellipse and hyperbola, the other two conic sections examined in the series, are introduced. The program defines the two terms, distinguishing between them with different language, equations, and graphic representations.

13. Functions—This program defines a function, discusses domain and range, and develops an equation from real situations. The cutting of pizza and encoding of secret messages provide subjects for the demonstration of functions and their usefulness.

14. Composition and Inverse Functions—Graphics are used to introduce composites and inverses of functions as applied to calculation of the Gross National Product.

15. Variation—In this program, students are given examples of special functions in the form of direct variation and inverse variation, with a discussion of combined variation and the constant of proportionality.

16. Polynomial Functions—This program explains how to identify, graph, and determine all intercepts of a polynomial function. It covers the role of coefficients; real numbers; exponents; and linear, quadratic, and cubic functions. This program touches upon factors, x-intercepts, and zero values.

17. Rational Functions—A rational function is the quotient of two polynomial functions. The properties of these functions are investigated using cases in which each rational function is expressed in its simplified form.

18. Exponential Functions—Students are taught the exponential function, as illustrated through formulas. The population of Massachusetts, the “learning curve,” bacterial growth, and radioactive decay demonstrate these functions and the concepts of exponential growth and decay.

19. Logarithmic Functions—This program covers the logarithmic relationship, the use of logarithmic properties, and the handling of a scientific calculator. How radioactive dating and the Richter scale depend on the properties of logarithms is explained

20. Systems of Equations—The case of two linear equations in two unknowns is considered throughout this program. Elimination and substitution methods are used to find single solutions to systems of linear and nonlinear equations.

21. Systems of Linear Inequalities—Elimination and substitution are used again to solve systems of linear inequalities. Linear programming is shown to solve problems in the Berlin airlift, production of butter and ice cream, school redistricting, and other situations while constraints, corner points, objective functions, the region of feasible solutions, and minimum and maximum values are also explored.

22. Arithmetic Sequences and Series—When the growth of a child is regular, it can be described by an arithmetic sequence. This program differentiates between arithmetic and nonarithmetic sequences as it presents the solutions to sequence- and series-related problems

23. Geometric Sequences and Series—This program provides examples of geometric sequences and series (f-stops on a camera and the bouncing of a ball), explaining the meaning of nonzero constant real number and common ratio.

24. Mathematical Induction—Mathematical proofs applied to hypothetical statements shape this discussion on mathematical induction. This segment exhibits special cases, looks at the development of number patterns, relates the patterns to Pascal’s triangle and factorials, and elaborates the general form of the theorem.

25. Permutations and Combinations—How many variations in a license plate number or poker hand are possible? This program answers the question and shows students how it’s done.

26. Probability—In this final program, students see how the various techniques of algebra that they have learned can be applied to the study of probability. The program shows that games of chance, health statistics, and product safety are areas in which decisions must be made according to our understanding of the odds.

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