# How to Add Terms in Algebra (Mathematics Lesson)

# Adding Terms in Algebra

Imagine we wanted to add the terms **2a** and **3b**.

The method for adding terms depends on whether the terms are **like** or **unlike**.

# Adding Like Terms in Algebra

Like terms have the same **variables** (letters), each with the same **exponents** by them. The only difference is their **coefficient** (the number, or sometimes the letter, in front of them).

**2a** and **3a** are like terms. They have the same letters (**a**), with the same exponents. The only difference is **2a** has a coefficient of **2** while **3a** has a coefficient of **3**.

If terms are like terms, the terms are added by identifying the coefficients of the like terms and adding them together.

Read more about adding like terms in algebra

# Adding Unlike Terms in Algebra

Unlike terms have different variables (letters) or different exponents.

**2a** and **3b** are unlike terms. They have different variables (**a** in one, **b** in the other).

If terms are unlike, the terms are simply added using the + operator. The expression cannot be simplified any further.

# Real Examples of How to Add Terms in Algebra

The following real examples show how to add terms in algebra.

The method is slightly different depending on whether the terms are unlike or like, so the first step is always to identify whether terms are like or unlike.

# A Real Example of How to Add Like Terms in Algebra

#### An Example Question

Add the two terms below.

Check whether the terms are unlike or like.

In our example, the terms are like. They have the same variables (**x** and **y**), with the same exponents. The only difference is **3xy** has a coefficient of **3** while **2xy** has a coefficient of **2**.

Identify the coefficients of the terms.

Add the coefficients together.

Make the number found in **Step 3** (5) the coefficient of the term (xy).

We have added the like terms together:

**3xy**+

**2xy**=

**5xy**

# A Real Example of How to Add Unlike Terms in Algebra

#### An Example Question

Add the two terms below.

Check whether the terms are unlike or like.

In our example, the terms are unlike. They have different variables (**x** and **y** in one, **a** and **b** in the other).

Leave the terms added with the + operator. The expression cannot be simplified any further.

We have added the like terms together:

**3xy**+

**2ab**=

**3xy**+

**2ab**

# Another Real Example of How to Add Terms in Algebra

Sometimes an expression will have both unlike and unlike terms.

In this case, add the like terms together and leave the unlike terms added using the + operator. This simplifies the expression (the method is called collecting like terms).

The slider below shows a real example of how to add terms in algebra.

##### Curriculum

##### Interactive Test

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Here's a third test on adding terms.

##### Note

# What Is a Like Term in Algebra?

Like terms are terms with the same combination of letters (and/or brackets).

The only difference is the sign or number in front of the group of letters.

Each letter (and/or bracket) in a like term must have the same exponents - the number that sits to the top-right of the letter.

# What Is a Term in Algebra?

A term is a collection of numbers, letters and brackets all multiplied together.

Terms are separated by + or - signs in an algebraic expression.