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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) Algeria
(C) Algebra
(D) Algebra textbook

The answer, believe it or not, is (C) 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—basic algebra, anyway—isn't 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 one of the most straightforward and rational math courses you'll come across...even when we're talking about irrational numbers. It's all about moving from one step to the logical next step, like a brilliant but prickly Sherlock Holmes-type. You can put the Advil away—you won’t be needing it. Keep the magnifying glass and deerstalker hat, though.

Why Should I Care?

Isn’t it enough that we asked nicely?

Oh, all right. You should care because your life depends on it. We don't mean that algebra itself is a matter of life and death, but 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'll have a leg up in a whole slew of applicable real-life scenarios, like figuring out payments, tips, taxes, and receipts—if you're an algebra whiz, fewer mistakes mean more dollars in your pocket. Algebra can help you make better cupcakes, since it'll let you adjust a recipe to make a half or double batch. It can even show you the perfect trajectory at which to shoot a basketball so that you'll sink that jump shot. Not to mention its massive usefulness in all kinds of different career paths. 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 fit twelve clowns into a Prius without some serious mathematical wizardry.

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

Algebra is everywhere and always will be, like it or not. Let's show it who's boss.

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