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What is a Constant in Math? - Definition & Overview

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  • 0:01 What Is a Constant?
  • 2:04 Other Math Symbols
  • 3:04 How to Read Constants
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Furney

Jason has taught both College and High School Mathematics and holds a Master's Degree in Math Education.

This lesson will discuss the meaning of the word constant as well as define it. It will show you how to recognize and pick out constant values of given expressions through a series of examples.

What Is a Constant?

To correctly identify what a constant is, let's think about what the word 'constant' means. To begin with, let's find some common phrases in which some form of the word 'constant' is used.

1. Why do you constantly annoy me?
2. I have constant pain.

In these two cases, think about what the word 'constant' is representing.

1. Constantly represents always and continuously in this example.
2. A constant pain is one that never changes and never goes away (at least not without medical help).

When looking at the meaning of the English counterparts of our math vocabulary, we can see similarities that will help us define the term. In this case, it is plain to see that we are looking for something in math to be constant. That is to say that we are looking for something that is always the same, that never changes, and that, when left alone, never goes away.

Your next task is a little more difficult than the first. It may make you think a little in the process… that's okay! Think about the entire math you have seen up to this point. Think of formulas, equations, plus signs, subtraction signs, numbers, and yes, even letters. Think of those dreaded fractions as well as negatives and positives. Think about everything!

Is that math in your mind? Now the tough part…out of all that math, find something that is constant, something that never changes. Numbers should be one of the many mathematical items that popped into your head. It is true that there is a giant, enormous list of numbers out there, and every one of them is unique and different in its own way. However, if we look at them individually, what kind of characteristics do they take?

Let's look at a single number to better understand things. 1

While it is true that this is the loneliest number, it is also much more. 1 is indeed a constant! If you have 1 apple, you always have 1 apple. Having 1 apple will never mean that you have 2 apples or 3 apples. One, and every other number, is always a constant.

A constant is a number.

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