Algebra. What is it? "Algebra" is derived from an
Arabic expression {em al-jabr wa’l muqabala} which occurs
in the title of the first Arabic text on algebra written by
Al-Khwarizmi. To him,
"Algebra" is the **art of reducing and solving equations**.

Algebra
has been used for over 4500 years dating back to ancient Babylon,
where assignments were written on clay tablets using the ends
of little sticks to make wedge-shaped marks. About 1000 years
later, Egyptian students wrote their assignments on papyrus, a
parchment-like material that was easier to write on than a clay
tablet. They may not have had compact disks or VCRs but they did
have homework!!

If you could read any of these assignments today, you might not
recognize them as algebra assignments. Letters were not used for
unknown values in their equations because the alphabet of today
had not yet been invented! So, instead of letters, they made little
pictures that stood for the unknowns. Algebraic symbolism using
letters did not gain wide acceptance until the Greek mathematician,
Diophantus, introduced his style of writing equations.

**Upon completion of the activities in
this unit, you should be able to:**

- Solve equations using addition, subtraction, multiplication,
and division.
- Solve equations involving more than one operation.
- Solve equations with the variable on both sides.
- Solve equations containing grouping symbols.
- Solve literal equations (formulas) for a specified variable.