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Let's say that I'm
working in a restaurant, and I'm making $10 per hour. But on top of my hourly wage,
I also get tips each hour. So this entire expression,
you can view this as how much I might
make in a given hour. Now, you might also realize
that the number of tips or the amount of tips
I might make in an hour can change dramatically
from hour to hour. It can vary-- one hour it
might be lunchtime, get a lot of tips, people might
get some big-ticket items. The next hour, I might
not have any customers. And then my tips
might be really low. So the tips part
right over here, we consider that--
the entire word, we consider that
to be a variable. From scenario to
scenario, it can change. So for example, in one
scenario, maybe it's lunchtime. I'm getting really big tips. So tips is-- let's
say it's equal to $30. And so the total amount I
might make in that hour-- we can go back to this
expression right over here-- it's going to be 10 plus--
instead of writing tips here, I'll write 30 because that's
what my tips are in that hour. And so that is going
to be equal to 40. Let me do it in
that yellow color. It's going to be equal to $40. But let's say right after that,
the restaurant slows down. We're out of the lunch
hour for whatever reason. Maybe the restaurant next door
has a big sale or something. And so the next hour, my
tips go down dramatically. My tips go down to
$5 for that hour. Now I go back to
this expression. The total I make
is my hourly wage plus the $5 in tips,
which is equal to $15. As you see, this entire
expression-- the 10 plus tips-- it changed depending on what the
value of the variable tips is. Now, you won't see whole
words typically used in algebra as variables. We get lazy. And so instead, we tend to use
just easier-to-write symbols. And so in this context,
instead of writing tips, maybe we could have
just written 10 plus t, where t represents the tips
that we get in an hour. And so then we
would say, OK, what happens when t is equal to 30? Well, then, we have a situation. t is equal to 30. This evaluates to 10 plus
30, which would be 40. What would happen
if t is equal to 5? Well, then, this would
evaluate to 10 plus 5, which is equal to 15. Now, I want to be clear. We didn't even have to use t. We didn't even really
have to use a letter, although in traditional algebra,
you almost do use a letter. We could have written
it as 10 plus x, where x is your tips per hour.
x might not be as natural. It's not the first
letter in the word tips. Or you could have even
written 10 plus star, where you could
say star represents the number of tips in an hour. But it just might have not
made as much intuitive sense. But hopefully this
gives you a general idea of just what a variable is. All it is is a symbol that
represents varying values. And that's why we
call it a variable.