The Lesson

Letters can be multiplied with numbers, other letters and the same letter.
  • A letter can be multiplied with a number. a times 2 equals 2a Write the number in front of the letter.
  • A letter can be multiplied with a different letter. a times b equals ab Write the letters next to each other.
  • A letter can be multiplied with the same letter. a times a equals a squared When you multiply a letter with itself, use exponent notation. A letter is multiplied by itself is squared. A small 2 is written above and to the right of the letter to indicate it is mutlipled by itself 2 times.

Multiplying Letters to Make Terms

A term is a collection of letters and numbers multiplied together. In the examples above, the letter a has been multiplied with a number, the letter b and itself to make terms. These multiplications can all be combined to make a more complicated term: a times 2 times b times a equals 2 a squared b We just write the letters and numbers next to each other. If a letter is multiplied by itself, write an exponent by that letter to show how many times the letter has been multiplied by itself. Terms can then be multiplied together. Read more about how to multiply terms

Lesson Slides

The slider below shows a real example of how to multiply letters in algebra.

Exponent Notation

Exponent notation is used when a letter is multiplied by itself. a, a squared, a cubed Note: A letter by itself has an implicit exponent of 1 (this is one of the laws of exponents). Sometimes we will be multiplying letters which each have an exponent. There is a law for multiplying letters with exponents. Simply add the exponents together.