3 Tutorials that teach Solving Multi-step Equations
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Solving Multi-step Equations

Solving Multi-step Equations


This lesson shows how to solve multi-step equations.

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  • Solving an Equation
  • Multi-step Equations with Distribution
  • A Variable in the Denominator
  • Equations with a Root

Solving Multi-Step Equations

Solving an Equation

When solving an equation, our main goal is to isolate the variable we wish to solve for onto one side of the equation, and then evaluate the expression on the other side of the equation.  To do this, we use inverse operations to undo the operations on our variable.  With single step equations, only one operation is applied to our variable, so only one inverse operation must be applied.  Let's review these inverse operations

What do we do when we have several operations being performed on the variable we wish to solve for?  We know that we must perform inverse operations to both sides of the equation (due to the Rule of Equality for equations), but in what order?  Think about the order of operations.  These operations are applied to the variable following the order of operations.  To undo this, we apply inverse operations in the reverse order of operations

To solve multi-step equations, apply inverse operations to both sides of the equation, following the reverse order of operations. 


An Equation with Distribution

Let's take a look at an example of an equation involving distribution.  Generally, there are two options.  Option 1 is to divide by the outside factor, eliminating the need to distribute anything.  Option 2 is to simplify the expression by distributing the factor. We will see how to solve an equation both ways:


A Variable in the Denominator

When a variable appears in the denominator of a fraction, it can be difficult to isolate that variable until it is moved into a numerator.  When the denominator contains the variable, the first step we take is to multiply the entire equation by the expression in the denominator.  This eliminates the variable from the denominator on one side of the equation, and makes it part of the numerator on the other side of the equation.  This is illustrated in the example below:

Notice that when clearing the variable in the denominator, we multiply the equation by the entire denominator, not just by the variable alone. 


An Equation involving a Root

So far we have seen how to apply inverse operations to undo addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  Lastly, let's see how to apply power and roots to solve a multi-step equation. 

As we can see with the example above, we had an expression underneath a cube root.  To undo this, we cubed both sides of the equation.  We were left with the expression alone, without a radical, and 3 cubed on the other side.  From there, we were able to solve for x by applying our familiar inverse operations.