# James A Sellers

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Deepen your insight into polynomial functions by graphing them to see how they differ from non-polynomials. Then learn how the general shape of the graph can be predicted from the highest exponent of the polynomial, known as its degree. Finally, explore how other terms in the function also affect the graph.

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Exponential functions are important in real-world applications involving growth and decay rates, such as compound interest and depreciation. Experiment with simple exponential functions, exploring such concepts as the base, growth factor, and decay factor, and how different values for these terms affect the graph of the function.

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As the number of variables increases, it becomes unwieldy to solve systems of linear equations by graphing. Learn that these problems are not as hard as they look and that systems of three linear equations often yield to the strategy of successively eliminating variables.

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Discover how to solve equations that contain radical expressions. A key step is isolating the radical term and then squaring both sides. As always, it's important to check the solution by plugging it into the equation to see if it makes sense. This is especially true with radical equations, which can sometimes yield extraneous, or invalid, solutions.

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Switch from graphs to the algebraic side of polynomial functions, learning how to combine them in many different ways, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and even long division, which is easier than it seems. Discover which of these operations produce new polynomials and which do not.

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Advance to the next level of problem solving by using variables as the building blocks to create algebraic expressions, which are combinations of mathematical symbols that might include numbers, variables, and operation symbols. Also, learn some tricks for translating the language of problems (phrases in English) into the language of math (algebraic expressions).

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Professor Sellers explains the topics covered in the series, the importance of algebra, and how you can get the most out of these episodes. Then, launch into the fundamentals of algebra by reviewing the order of operations and trying your hand at several problems.

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Continue your study of the link between combinatorics and algebra by using the factorial function to solve problems in permutations and combinations. For example, what are all the permutations of the letters a, b, c? And how many combinations of four books are possible when you have six to choose from?

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Now that you know how to add rational expressions, try the opposite procedure of splitting a more complicated rational expression into its component parts. Called partial fraction decomposition, this approach is a topic in introductory calculus and is used for solving a wide range of more advanced math problems.

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Drawing on your experience with roots and radicals from the previous episode, try your hand at solving equations with these expressions. Begin by learning how to manipulate rational, or fractional, exponents. Then practice with simple equations, while being on the lookout for extraneous, or "imposter," solutions.

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Quadratic functions often arise in real-world settings. Explore a number of problems, including calculating the maximum height of a rocket and determining how long an object dropped from a tree takes to reach the ground. Learn that in finding a solution, graphing can often help.

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Moving into the visual realm, learn how linear equations are represented as straight lines on graphs using either the slope-intercept or point-slope forms of the function. Next, investigate parallel and perpendicular lines and how to identify them by the value of their slopes.

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Combine rational functions using addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and composition. The trick is to start each problem by putting the expressions in factored form, which makes the calculations go more smoothly. Leaving the answer in factored form also allows other operations, such as graphing, to be easily performed.

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Functions are crucially important not only for algebra, but for precalculus, calculus, and higher mathematics. Learn the definition of a function, the notation, and associated concepts such as domain and range. Then try out the vertical line test for determining whether a given curve is a graph of a function.

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Delve into the algebra of conic sections, which are the cross-sectional shapes produced by slicing a cone at different angles. In this episode, study parabolas and hyperbolas, which differ in how many variable terms are squared in each. Also learn how to sketch a hyperbola from its equation.

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Using graph paper, experiment with curves formed by simple radical functions. First, determine the domain of the function, which tells you the general location of the graph on the coordinate plane. Then, investigate how different terms in the function alter the graph in predictable ways.

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Pause to examine the nature of polynomials: a class of algebraic expressions that you've been working with since the beginning of the series. Professor Sellers introduces several useful concepts, such as the standard form of polynomials and their degree, domain, range, and leading coefficients.