Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Terms in a Mathematical Expression

  1. Aug 19, 2011 #1
    When we refer to terms in an equation, what EXACTLY are we referring to? Suppose for example we have:

    ab + bc + cd = A

    Suppose somebody refers to term "ab". Are they referring to the syntactical NAME "ab", the IMAGE of ab (i.e., it's value), or the ARGUMENT (a,b) which belongs to some ordered triplet in the multiplication function?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 19, 2011 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Do you mean the ordered triplet in the addition function? Yes, I believe that's it.
  4. Aug 20, 2011 #3

    Stephen Tashi

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I don't think there is any general rule for this. It depends on the context. It's a matter of interpreting English unless you are studying a text that is using such terminology to describe the precise syntax of a symbolic language.

    For example, one might just as well ask "Who is the 'we' that you refer to?" or "EXACTLY what particular passages of text are you talking about?".
  5. Aug 20, 2011 #4
    In high school algebra II, we're taught that a term is an expression that is being added to another. In your example, you would have three terms: ab, bc, and cd.
  6. Aug 22, 2011 #5
    A "term" is not a formal mathematical object, it's just a word that's used for conveying a point. It can mean any of the three things you mentioned, and it's still (mathematically) unambiguous, because two of the three are the same (the value and the argument to the operation, since the value is what is actually being used as an argument) and the other one (the name) has no bearing on the mathematical value of the sentence.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook