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Algebra (from Arabic 'al-jabr', literally meaning 'reunion of broken parts') is one of the broad parts of mathematics, together with number theory, geometry and analysis. In its most general form, algebra is the study of mathematical symbols and the rules for manipulating these symbols; it is a unifying thread of almost all of mathematics. It includes everything from elementary equation solving to the study of abstractions such as groups, rings, and fields. The more basic parts of algebra are called elementary algebra; the more abstract parts are called abstract algebra or modern algebra. Elementary algebra is generally considered to be essential for any study of mathematics, science, or engineering, as well as such applications as medicine and economics. Abstract algebra is a major area in advanced mathematics, studied primarily by professional mathematicians. Elementary algebra differs from arithmetic in the use of abstractions, such as using letters to stand for numbers that are either unknown or allowed to take on many values. For example, in x + 2 = 5 {displaystyle x+2=5} the letter x {displaystyle x} is unknown, but applying additive inverses can reveal its value: x = 3 {displaystyle x=3} . In E = mc2, the letters E {displaystyle E} and m {displaystyle m} are variables, and the letter c {displaystyle c} is a constant, the speed of light in a vacuum. Algebra gives methods for writing formulas and solving equations that are much clearer and easier than the older method of writing everything out in words. The word algebra is also used in certain specialized ways. A special kind of mathematical object in abstract algebra is called an 'algebra', and the word is used, for example, in the phrases linear algebra and algebraic topology. A mathematician who does research in algebra is called an algebraist. The word algebra comes from the Arabic الجبر (al-jabr lit. 'the reunion of broken parts') from the title of the book Ilm al-jabr wa'l-muḳābala by the Persian mathematician and astronomer al-Khwarizmi. The word entered the English language during the fifteenth century, from either Spanish, Italian, or Medieval Latin. It originally referred to the surgical procedure of setting broken or dislocated bones. The mathematical meaning was first recorded in the sixteenth century.

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