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How to Simplify a Division Expression

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  • 0:00 A Division Expression
  • 1:04 Simplifying
  • 3:19 Example 1
  • 4:11 Example 2
  • 4:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

Watch this video lesson to learn how to simplify a division problem that has both numbers and letters in it. See what you need to do to get the correct answer. Also, learn what you can do to make your job easier.

A Division Expression

Once you get into the algebra part of math, you will begin to see a lot of problems that look like this:

Simplify 8x / 4x

This is essentially a division problem. In math, we call these division expressions, mathematical expressions using division. When the problem is asking you to simplify, it is asking you to simply reduce the numbers and letters as much as you can.

You can think of it as a matching game. You know the game where you turn over different cards and if you find a matching pair of cards, you stack them together? In our case, that's what we are looking to do. We are looking for matching pairs that we can stack together. The only difference is that once we've found a matching pair, we can completely take it out of our problem, thus making our problem simpler.

Simplifying

This whole process is called simplifying. Let's look at how we do this. Right now, we have an 8x on the top and a 4x on the bottom. To find matching pairs, we will break up our numbers into their factors. For example, our 8 can be broken down into 4 * 2. We see a 4 here, which matches with the 4 on the bottom. That tells us that we don't have to break up our 4 because we have already found a matching pair. When I say 'matching pair', I mean that you have the same thing on the top and the bottom of your problem.

division expression

I have rewritten our problem to show the breakdown of the 8 into 4 * 2. We have a matching pair of 4s since we have a 4 in the numerator and a 4 in the denominator. We also have a matching pair of x's since there is an x in the numerator and an x in the denominator. Because they are matching pairs, we can go ahead and take them out of our problem.

Why can we do this? Well, think about it. What is 4 divided by 4? It's 1. What is anything multiplied by 1? Itself. So, by taking out matching pairs, we are essentially just taking out a multiplication by 1, which doesn't change our problem at all. It is the same with our x divided by x. Because the numerator and denominator are the same, it will equal 1 and we are actually just taking out a 1, which doesn't change our problem at all.

What do we get after taking out our matching pairs? We get 2 for our answer. And we are done!

Let's look at a couple more examples to get a better grasp of this process.

Example 1

Simplify 5x / 10x

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