COMBINING LIKE TERMS

Terms with the same variable part are called like terms
because they look ‘alike’ as far as the variable part is concerned.
The phrase like terms can refer to two or more terms.

Thus, [beautiful math coming... please be patient] $\,2x\,$ and $\,-5x\,$ are like terms.
In each term, the variable part is $\,x\,$.
Also, [beautiful math coming... please be patient] $\,x^2\,$, $\,\frac{1}{3}x^2\,$, and $\,(4.2)x^2\,$ are like terms.
In each term, the variable part is $\,x^2\,$.

Only like terms can be combined, and they are combined by adding the coefficients.
For example, [beautiful math coming... please be patient] $\,2x + 5x = (2 + 5)x = 7x\,$ and $\,7y - 4y = (7 - 4)y = 3y\,$.
You might want to think of these in concrete terms:
Two x-rays plus five x-rays is seven x-rays.
Seven yo-yos minus four yo-yos is three yo-yos.

Terms that are not like terms cannot be combined.
For example, there is no simpler way to write [beautiful math coming... please be patient] $\,2x + 5y\,$ or $\,y - 2y^2\,$.

EXAMPLES:
Question: Combine like terms:   [beautiful math coming... please be patient] $\,2x - 3y + x + 5y$
Answer: [beautiful math coming... please be patient] $3x + 2y$
Note:
The variable $\,x\,$ occurs first in the original expression,
and it must be written first in the answer, to be recognized as correct by this exercise.
(That is, [beautiful math coming... please be patient] $\,2y + 3x\,$ is not recognized as a correct answer.)
Question: Combine like terms:   [beautiful math coming... please be patient] $\,x^2 - 3xy - 4x^2 + 5y + xy - 6y$
Answer: [beautiful math coming... please be patient] $-3x^2 - 2xy - y$
Note:
In the original expression, moving from left to right and looking for different term types,
[beautiful math coming... please be patient] $\,x^2\,$ comes first, $\,xy\,$ next, and $\,y\,$ last.
They must be written in this order in your answer, to be recognized as correct.
In the exercise below, exponents are written using the ‘ ^ ’ key.
Question: Combine like terms:   $\,2t + 4w - 3w + t - w$
Answer: $3t$
Note:
If a term has a coefficient of $\,0\,$ (like $\,4w - 3w - w\,$),
then it will not appear in your final answer.
Master the ideas from this section
by practicing the exercise at the bottom of this page.

When you're done practicing, move on to:
Simplifying Expressions like $\,-a(3b - 2c - d)$

 
 

Terms must be written in the order the term types appear, from left-to-right, in the original expression.
Use the ‘ ^ ’ key for exponents.

Combine like terms: