Algebra I All-in-One For Dummies
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Grouping symbols organize an algebra problem that contains multiple groups. Algebraic grouping symbols — parentheses, brackets, braces, radicals, and fraction lines — show where a group starts and ends, and help to establish the order used to apply math operations.

Terms inside a grouping symbol have to be operated upon before they can be acted upon by anything outside the grouping symbol. All the bracket types have equal weight; none is more powerful or acts differently from the others.

If a problem contains grouped items, do what’s inside a grouping symbol first, then follow the order of operations (exponents/roots, multiply, divide, add, subtract).

The grouping symbols are as follows:

  • Parentheses ( ): Parentheses are the most commonly used symbols for grouping.

  • Brackets [ ] and Braces { }: Brackets and braces are also used frequently for grouping and have the same effect as parentheses. Using the different types of symbols helps when there’s more than one grouping in a problem. It’s easier to tell where a group starts and ends.

  • Radical √: Also called the square root symbol, this is used for finding roots.

  • Fraction Line (Vinculum) —: The fraction line also acts as a grouping symbol. Everything above the line in the numerator is grouped together, and everything below the line in the denominator is grouped together.

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Mary Jane Sterling taught algebra, business calculus, geometry, and finite mathematics at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, for more than 30 years. She is the author of several For Dummies books, including Algebra Workbook For Dummies, Algebra II For Dummies, and Algebra II Workbook For Dummies.

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