# Tips on Solving Math Equations

By Jennifer Ratliff
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Math equations can intimidate students because they're full of symbols and seem disconnected from the real world. But mathematics -- and in particular algebra -- is a subject that every middle and high school student will have to contend with, and along with it comes equations. They can contain multiple variables, single variables or other complex terms. Like levels of a video game, the types of equations must all be mastered before students can graduate successfully.

## Prepare

Before you even move your first variable, check to make sure you are following the directions. Most equations are straightforward. For example, you have no doubt that for the equation x + 3 = 21, they want you to solve for "x." In equations with more than one variable, such as 2x + 4y = 10, you'll have to double-check which variable you must find a value for. In addition, look for another equation that will allow you to use the substitution method to pinpoint the values.

## Gather Like Terms

Put all "like" terms together. For example, in the equation 5x + 3 = 8x - 6, move the 5x to the right side and the -6 to the left side, which leaves 3 + 6 = 8x - 5x; this simplifies into 9 = 3x. Be certain that you do the same thing to both sides of the equation, For instance, if you forget to add 6 to the right side (effectively canceling it out), you'll end up with the wrong equation, 9 = 3x - 6.

## Isolate and Solve for the Variable

Most equations for secondary school students require you to solve for only one variable. So, for the equation 5x + 7 = 10x - 3, you would move the like variables to one side and the constants to one side, leaving 10 = 5x. Then simply solve for "x." To do this, you have to isolate the "x." Because 5 is being multiplied by the variable "x," you have to divide both sides by 5. So the answer is x = 2 (10/5 = 5x/5).