Equations 101: Understanding the Basics

Equations 101: Understanding the Basics

Equations are an essential element of mathematics and science, making them a foundation for many fields. Understanding equations unlocks the ability to solve complex problems in a variety of settings, such as physics, engineering, and finance. Yet, for many students, equations can be intimidating and challenging to approach. This post aims to break down the basics of understanding equations and ultimately contribute to making them more approachable.


Before we dive into the details of equations, let’s establish what an equation is. An equation is a statement that shows that two things are equal. In mathematical terms, it consists of two expressions on either side of an equal sign. At its essential level, an equation is simply a tool to help understand relationships between different variables or constants.


Equations can be simple or complex, but they all follow the same fundamental principles. The left-hand side of the equation is known as the expression, and the right-hand side is the result of the expression. The equal sign shows that the two sides are equivalent.

An example of a simple equation is 5 + 7 = 12. This equation is telling us that when we add 5 to 7, we get a result of 12. Alternatively, we can subtract 5 from 12 and find that the result is 7. Thus, we can use equations to identify relationships between numbers and solve problems through arithmetic.

However, equations are not limited to arithmetic operations; they can also involve variables. For instance, x + 3 = 5 is telling us that when we add 3 to the unknown value of x, we have a result of 5. To solve for x, we can subtract 3 from both sides of the equation, which leaves us with the answer x = 2. This is an example of basic algebraic manipulation.

Another crucial aspect of understanding equations is that they may represent more than one type of relationship. If we take the equation x + 3 = 5, we can think of it as a relationship between two numbers, as seen in the prior example. Alternatively, we can consider it as a statement of equivalence. If we assume that x + 3 = y, we can now express the same relationship in terms of y. This process highlights that equations are flexible and can be manipulated according to the problem’s needs.


Let’s examine a few additional examples to see how equations can be used:

Example 1:

y + 4 = 9

To solve for y, we can subtract 4 from both sides of the equation:

y + 4 – 4 = 9 – 4

y = 5

Example 2:

2x + 6 = 10

To solve for x, we can take the following steps:

2x + 6 – 6 = 10 – 6

2x = 4

x = 2

Example 3:

y = 5x + 3

To plot the equation as a line in a coordinate plane, we can create a table of values:

When x = 0, y = 3

When x = 1, y = 8

When x = 2, y = 13

When x = 3, y = 18


Let’s address some commonly asked questions about equations:

Q: What is a linear equation?

A: A linear equation is one where the highest power of the variable is one. In other words, the relationship between the variable and other numbers is linear. For instance, y = 3x – 2 is a linear equation, whereas y = 3x^2 – 2 is not.

Q: How do you solve a quadratic equation?

A: Quadratic equations involve a variable raised to the second power, making them more complex to solve. Several methods can be used to solve a quadratic equation, such as factoring, completing the square or using the quadratic formula.


Equations are a tool for understanding relationships between different variables or constants. They can represent arithmetic operations, relationships between two numbers, or equivalence. Equations may involve variables, which can be manipulated algebraically to help solve for different variables. Linear equations are the most common type of equation, while quadratic equations involve variables raised to the second power.


Understanding equations is essential for tackling complex problems. Equations are not limited to mathematical applications, but they are a foundation for many fields. By taking the time to understand the basics, one can build a solid foundation that enables them to succeed in more complex areas of mathematics and science.

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