Main content

## Algebra 1

### Course: Algebra 1 > Unit 1

Lesson 2: Introduction to variables- What is a variable?
- Why aren't we using the multiplication sign?
- Creativity break: Why is creativity important in STEM jobs?
- Evaluating an expression with one variable
- Evaluating expressions with one variable
- Evaluating expressions with one variable

© 2023 Khan AcademyTerms of usePrivacy PolicyCookie Notice

# Why aren't we using the multiplication sign?

In algebra, representing multiplication with variables can be tricky due to the similarity between the variable "x" and the multiplication symbol. To avoid confusion, use alternative methods like 2⋅x, 2(x), or 2x. Practice evaluating expressions by substituting given values for variables and following the order of operations. Created by Sal Khan.

## Want to join the conversation?

- Would my teacher take points off, if I don't use ˑ ?(531 votes)
- He shouldn't, and he probably won't, since x is still defined as the multiplication sign. If you are really careful and never confuse the multiplication sign x with the variable x, and it looks pretty clear to everyone else what you mean as you do math, there is no reason why you should lose points. Having said that, it really is easier to use . instead of x to represent multiplication, specially as the math you start to learn gets more and more complicated and the use of the variable x becomes more and more commom.(592 votes)

- at0:40, why do mathematicians use "X" as a variable more often that most?(100 votes)
- x is actually the latin replacement for the arabic word that means "unknown" or "something." Here's a short video about it on Tedtalks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YX_OxBfsvbk

Hope you foound this interesting :)(88 votes)

- What is preferred the dot or the x(24 votes)
- Once you get to Algebra, the x should no longer be used for multiplicaition, it is reserved for a variable. So the dot is now preferred, or use parentheses or an asterisk (*).(28 votes)

- Why do most people use x instead of other letters like p or s or even q?(16 votes)
- It's just a common variable to use. Many people use p, s, q, and every other letter (you'll even see Greek ones in geometry!).(14 votes)

- Soooo... why are we ever taught "x means multiplication" at all?! Wouldn't it be easier if we just
*always*used the dot? It's not like one is more intuitive than the other.(14 votes)- That would be great. Maybe the issue has to do with abstractness. When people are young, they are very much concrete thinkers - what you see is what you get. Later in 5th to 7th grade, they are able to start thinking more abstractly. Perhaps using a dot is too abstract for the young compared to an x. This is only a thought, it may not mean anything.(18 votes)

- I feel like it would be easier if we just DIDN'T use letters in math. Anyone agree with me?(13 votes)
- What kinds of symbols do you recommend then? "⍼"?(16 votes)

- Why couldn't you just use a different symbol than x?(10 votes)
- You can use any letter or symbols to represent your number.(1 vote)

- is this correct way to solve 7+4b b=3

7+4b

= 4*3

=12+7

=19

is there another way I can solve this problem(10 votes)- yep,that's the way I do the equation. But I do that more explained.Otherwise I can't understand the question.

7+4b,b=3

=7+4*(3)

=7+12

=19

only a little bit explained.(5 votes)

- At1:45Sal says we can use a dot for a multiplication sign instead of an x. Why do mathematicians use a dot, and not some other sign?(5 votes)
- If you're asking why we use the dot specifically, it probably just arose because of its simplicity. We multiply things a lot in math, and mathematicians like to be efficient when they write. The dot (it's actually called an "interpunct" to be more specific) is so simple and short to write, that's probably why we use it instead of another symbol.(12 votes)

- tbh i never used the ' x ' for multiplying numbers, my 4th grade teacher told us that in later years, we were gonna be doing more complicated math, and it would be a lot more easier to use the ' * ' instead so that was rlly helpful(7 votes)
- Also in coding you use the '*' to multiply avoiding the 'x' problem, beacuase you can use X has variable to.

The thing is that in coding variables are a wider concept.(9 votes)

## Video transcript

We now hopefully know a little about variables and as we covered in the last video, a variable can be really any symbol, although we typically use letters because we're used to writing and typing letters. But it can be anything from an x, to a y, a z, an a, a b, and oftentimes we start using greek letters like theta. But you can really use any symbol to say Hey, this is going to vary You can take on multiple values But out of all of all of these The one that is most typically used in algebra Or really in all of mathematics is the variable "x" Although all of these are used to some degree But given that x is used so heavily it does introduce a slight problem. And that problem is that it looks a lot like the multiplication symbol Or the one that we use in arithmetic So in arithmetic if I want to write 2 x 3 I literally write "2 x 3" But now that we are starting to use variables, if I want to write "2 times x" Well if I use this as the multiplication symbol it would be 2 times x And the times symbol and the X look awfully similar and if I'm not really careful with my penmanship it can get very confusing. Is this "Two x x"? Is this "two times times something"? What exactly is going on here? And because this is confusing, This, right over here, is extremely confusing And it can be misinterpreted, We tend not to use this multiplication symbol When we are doing algebra Instead of that, to represent multiplication, We have several options. Instead of writing two times x this way, we could write 2 dot x. And this dot, I want to be very clear, This is not a decimal This is just written a little bit higher And we write this so we don't get confusion in between this and one of these variables right here. But this can really be interpreted as "2 times x" So for example, if someone says 2 dot x, when x is equal to 3, well this would be the same thing as two times three, when x is equal to three. Another way you could write it is You could write "2" and then you could write the x in parentheses right next to it. This is also interpreted as 2 times x Once again, so in this situation If "x" were seven, this would be two times seven, or fourteen And the most traditional way of doing it is to just write the x right after the 2. And sometimes this will be read as "2x" But this literally does mean "Two times x" And you might say, how come we didn't always do that? Well it would be literally confusing if we did it over here. Instead of writing "2 times 3" And wrote "2 3" Well, that looks like "23". This doesn't look like two times three And this is why we never did it. But here, since we're using a letter now, It's clear that this isn't a part of that number. This isn't "twenty something" This is two times this variable x. So all of these are really the same expression. Two times x, two times x, and two times x. And so with that out of the way Let's try some few worked examples, a few practice problems And this will hopefully prepare you for the next exercise Where you'll get a lot of chances to practice this. So if I where to say "what is 10 minus three y" And what does this equal when "y" is equal to two Well, every time you see the "y" You'd want that 2 there So this is y is equal to 2. Let's set that y equal to two This is the same thing as 10 minus three times two You do the multiplication first. Multiplication takes precedence in order of operations So three times two is six, Ten minus six is equal to four. Let's do another one. Let's say we had "7x minus 4" And we want to evaluate that when when x is equal to three. Where we see the x, we want to put the 3 there So this is the same thing as "7 times 3" And I'll actually use this notation, so seven times three minus four. And once again, multiplication takes precedence by order of operations, over addition or subtraction So we want to do the multiplying first 7 times 3 is 21 21 minus 4 is equal to 17. So hopefully that gives you a little bit of background, and I really encourage you to try the next exercise, It will give you a lot of practice on being to evaluate expressions like this.