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At a Glance - Intro

Pop Quiz Time!

Which of the following will NOT give you a splitting headache?

(A) Algae
(B) Al Jazeera
(C) Algeria
(D) Algebra
(E) Algebra textbook

The answer, believe it or not, is (D)...algebra. Blue-green algae can cause terrible headaches, algebra textbooks hurt as much as solid brick when you slam your head against them, and have you ever looked into booking a flight to Algeria? Headache central.

Algebra—elementary algebra, anyway—is not that bad. You may have heard some not-so-great things; in fact, your older brother may have described it as a method of torture that sadistic teachers enact upon students for their own twisted pleasure. He’s just messing with you, though. That’s what older brothers do. Besides, he slept through high school. What does he know?

Honestly, algebra is straightforward, logical, and actually quite simple. All it takes on your part is a tiny bit of focus on the ideas and concepts that will be presented to you throughout these guides; once put the effort in, you will have algebra down pat. Algebra is extremely rational...even when we are talking about irrational numbers. You can put the Advil away—you won’t be needing it.

Why Should I Care?

Isn’t it enough that we asked nicely?

Oh, all right. You should care because your life depends on it. While that fact does not necessarily mean that algebra itself is a matter of life and death, your quality of life will be much improved if you develop a solid understanding of algebraic principles. Don't look at us like that; we speak the truth.

Sound like an exaggeration? Think about it. You will have a leg up in a whole slew of applicable real-life scenarios: figuring out payments, tips, taxes, and receipts—if you are an algebra whiz, fewer mistakes means more dollars in your pocket; being handy around the house, because algebra makes better cupcakes; or determining the perfect trajectory at which to throw a horseshoe so that you get a ringer. Algebra will also help you in whatever career path you settle on. Whether your heart is set on becoming an engineer, an accountant, a computer guru, or a statistician, algebra will play a big part in what you do on a daily basis. 

This is, of course, an incomplete list. Clowns also use algebra. Otherwise, how could they possibly figure out how to fit so many of them into a single car? You can't put a clown into a Spacesaver...last time we checked.

While algebra can be a bit dry and tedious, we will absolutely, positively, not allow it to be that way on Shmoop. We have packed our guides so full of fun that you will think you have died and gone to the circus. You see? All roads lead back to clowns...or have clown cars on them?

Algebra is everywhere and always will be, like it or not. We suggest that you learn to like it. It will be easier this way.

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