What is a Matrix?

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  • 0:06 What is a Matrix?
  • 1:20 Parts of the Matrix
  • 2:52 Adding and Subtracting…
  • 3:52 Multiplying Matrices
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Zach Pino
As math gets more and more complicated and there become more and more numbers flying around, it becomes really handy to put all these numbers in a nice organized grid... hello matrices! Learn about what they are and why there are used.

What is a Matrix?

The structure of a matrix
Matrix Structure

Matrices are the main ingredient of a branch of mathematics called linear algebra. Linear algebra first becomes nice when you begin solving systems of linear equations. By only putting the essential information into a big chart, it allows you to focus on the numbers and you can simplify a lot of the process.

For example, let's say you're solving a system of two equations with two variables. You can solve this with elimination by multiplying the top equation by 3 and the bottom equation by 2. This makes the coefficients on your xs opposite, and you can add them together to eliminate the xs and just get the ys by themselves and go from there by solving for y and solving the system.

System of Two Equations Example
Example of a system of two equations
System of Two Equations Example

So that's not too bad, but let's say that instead of having two equations and two variables, we had seven equations and seven variables. This gets way messier! I have xs, ys, zs, ws, as, bs and cs, and if I wanted to try to solve this, it would be a huge headache writing out all those different letters every single time.

Parts of the Matrix

But if we instead take out all the letters and just put it into one big chart, we can kind of cut down on a lot of the work we have to do. We put this chart of numbers in what we call brackets. They're kind of like squared off parentheses. And it's organized into rows and columns. Each row represents one of the original equations from our problem, and each column represents all the different coefficients (numbers in front of the variables) that were on a particular variable. So all the numbers in the first column are all the different coefficients that were in front of the xs, for example.

Row of a matrix
Row of a matrix
Column of a matrix
Column of a matrix

We can still do the same type of thing. We can still use the elimination method and multiply the whole top equation by 2, which then turns my whole new matrix into this. And again, we can still add rows together in order to eliminate variables. Adding this top row to this second row eliminates my xs.

As you can see, this process can still take a pretty long time, so a matrix doesn't necessarily make it easy, but it makes it easier. It also allows us to tell a computer how to do this, and so matrices and linear algebra come up in computer programming a lot because it's really easy to tell the computer what this big grid of numbers is and then the computer can do the whole process for you in a few seconds.

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