Recognizing Like and Unlike Terms

In this video, we look at how to recognize like terms. Included are several examples to help avoid common mistakes. Algebra tiles are used to help visualize the terms.

Before we can understand what like terms are we need to define what a term is.

A term is part of an expression that is separated by an addition or subtraction sign. In the expression   $2x + 5x^2 + {^-4x}$, $2x$, $5x^2$, and ${^-4x}$ are all examples of terms.

When you have 2 or more terms with the same variable and the same exponents then they are considered to be “like terms”. In the example above, $2x$ and ${^-4x}$ are like terms.
Lets use the algebra tiles to look at other like terms:
examples of like terms
You will notice that in all cases the variables and the exponents are the same.

Now lets use the algebra tiles to look at unlike terms:
unlike terms
None of these terms can be added together, because they are not like term (the variables and the exponents and not the same.)

Ok, so why is this important?

Well often in algebra you will be asked to simplify a problem
by combining like terms.
adding like terms

To practice this skill try playing “Like Terms Uno” found under “Practice.”