In algebra, letters are used to represent arbitrary numbers. The various techniques of algebra, for example, collecting like terms or factorising etc. can be applied quite generally. As a result, many problems can be solved easily by expressing them in the form of an equation to which these general techniques can be applied. The origin of the term algebra lies in the Arabic ‘al-jabr w’al-muqabala’ which means ‘restoration and reduction’. It appears first in the writing of the mathematician Muhammad al-Khwarizmi (c780 to 850 AD). The topics are listed here in approximately the order they should be studied, though the order becomes less important further down the list.
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