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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Algebra: Who Knew

Way back when in high school we all had to have algebra to graduate. It this still the same? I don’t know. I struggled through the course never really accepting the principles of algebra. To me it seemed like arbitrary rules made up out of thin air.

3 × (d + 4) - 11 = 321 - 23

Just looking at this gives me a headache.

“To find a solution for an equation, we can use the basic rules of simplifying equations. These are as follows:

1) You may evaluate any parentheses, exponents, multiplications, divisions, additions, and subtractions in the usual order of operations. When evaluating expressions, be careful to use the associative and distributive properties properly.


2) You may combine like terms. This means adding or subtracting variables of the same kind. The expression 2x + 4x simplifies to 6x. The expression 13 - 7 + 3 simplifies to 9.

3) You may add any value to both sides of the equation.

4) You may subtract any value from both sides of the equation. This is best done by adding a negative value to each side of the equation.

5) You may multiply both sides of the equation by any number except 0.

6) You may divide both sides of the equation by any number except 0.

Hint: Since subtracting any number is the same as adding its negative, it can be helpful to replace subtractions with additions of a negative number”

AAAAKKK Gobbledegook!!! Voodoo numbers that have no basis in reality. Ok…if you insist I will force myself through the course and take it on faith that this stuff really works and has some meaning. I took these courses way before the invention of the handy little calculators that can solve these problems practically by themselves . I vaguely remember using a slide rule. I believe these are now considered collectable antiques.

The math teachers….. strange people to begin with, who would actually WANT to study math…. would assure us that we would need Algebra someday. Well, as it turns out, they were right.

I’ve been a financial advisor for over 17 years now and have completed the CFP courses. (Certified Financial Planner) I’m now in the process of taking a review course to be able to better sit for the final exam in November. This is a very difficult exam with a pass/fail rate of about 50% passing and I am assured, by the course providers, that they have an 80% pass rate. I sure hope so!!.

Up until now to calculate things like the Present Value of a future income stream, the Net Present Value of an investment and associated cash flows, or the amount needed to save on an annual or monthly basis for a future event such as college adjusted for inflation and taxes, I have use one of several computer programs and my handy HP 12C calculator, never really knowing, or caring, that they were doing Algebra for me. We really have become lazy people, relying on machines and computers to do the heavy lifting,

Now, I actually have to understand the underlying principles of solving the program and that means I have to remember basic Algebra.

I have a headache.

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