July 28, 2022

Simplifying Expressions - Definition, With Exponents, Examples

Algebraic expressions are one of the most challenging for budding pupils in their first years of college or even in high school

However, learning how to handle these equations is critical because it is primary information that will help them eventually be able to solve higher math and complicated problems across different industries.

This article will discuss everything you should review to master simplifying expressions. We’ll cover the principles of simplifying expressions and then test our comprehension via some sample questions.

How Do I Simplify an Expression?

Before you can be taught how to simplify expressions, you must learn what expressions are in the first place.

In arithmetics, expressions are descriptions that have at least two terms. These terms can contain variables, numbers, or both and can be connected through addition or subtraction.

For example, let’s review the following expression.

8x + 2y - 3

This expression contains three terms; 8x, 2y, and 3. The first two terms include both numbers (8 and 2) and variables (x and y).

Expressions that include coefficients, variables, and occasionally constants, are also referred to as polynomials.

Simplifying expressions is essential because it lays the groundwork for grasping how to solve them. Expressions can be written in convoluted ways, and without simplifying them, you will have a difficult time attempting to solve them, with more possibility for error.

Obviously, all expressions will be different regarding how they're simplified based on what terms they contain, but there are general steps that can be applied to all rational expressions of real numbers, whether they are square roots, logarithms, or otherwise.

These steps are called the PEMDAS rule, an abbreviation for parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. The PEMDAS rule states that the order of operations for expressions.

  1. Parentheses. Resolve equations within the parentheses first by adding or subtracting. If there are terms just outside the parentheses, use the distributive property to multiply the term on the outside with the one inside.

  2. Exponents. Where workable, use the exponent principles to simplify the terms that contain exponents.

  3. Multiplication and Division. If the equation necessitates it, use multiplication or division rules to simplify like terms that are applicable.

  4. Addition and subtraction. Lastly, use addition or subtraction the simplified terms of the equation.

  5. Rewrite. Make sure that there are no remaining like terms that require simplification, and rewrite the simplified equation.

Here are the Requirements For Simplifying Algebraic Expressions

Beyond the PEMDAS principle, there are a few additional principles you need to be aware of when dealing with algebraic expressions.

  • You can only apply simplification to terms with common variables. When adding these terms, add the coefficient numbers and leave the variables as [[is|they are]-70. For example, the equation 8x + 2x can be simplified to 10x by adding coefficients 8 and 2 and leaving the variable x as it is.

  • Parentheses that contain another expression outside of them need to utilize the distributive property. The distributive property prompts you to simplify terms on the outside of parentheses by distributing them to the terms on the inside, for example: a(b+c) = ab + ac.

  • An extension of the distributive property is referred to as the property of multiplication. When two separate expressions within parentheses are multiplied, the distribution rule kicks in, and all separate term will need to be multiplied by the other terms, making each set of equations, common factors of one another. Like in this example: (a + b)(c + d) = a(c + d) + b(c + d).

  • A negative sign outside an expression in parentheses denotes that the negative expression should also need to have distribution applied, changing the signs of the terms on the inside of the parentheses. As is the case in this example: -(8x + 2) will turn into -8x - 2.

  • Likewise, a plus sign outside the parentheses denotes that it will have distribution applied to the terms on the inside. But, this means that you can remove the parentheses and write the expression as is due to the fact that the plus sign doesn’t change anything when distributed.

How to Simplify Expressions with Exponents

The previous principles were simple enough to use as they only applied to rules that affect simple terms with variables and numbers. Still, there are a few other rules that you need to apply when dealing with exponents and expressions.

In this section, we will talk about the properties of exponents. Eight principles impact how we utilize exponentials, that includes the following:

  • Zero Exponent Rule. This principle states that any term with the exponent of 0 equals 1. Or a0 = 1.

  • Identity Exponent Rule. Any term with a 1 exponent will not change in value. Or a1 = a.

  • Product Rule. When two terms with equivalent variables are multiplied by each other, their product will add their two exponents. This is expressed in the formula am × an = am+n

  • Quotient Rule. When two terms with the same variables are divided, their quotient will subtract their two respective exponents. This is expressed in the formula am/an = am-n.

  • Negative Exponents Rule. Any term with a negative exponent is equivalent to the inverse of that term over 1. This is expressed with the formula a-m = 1/am; (a/b)-m = (b/a)m.

  • Power of a Power Rule. If an exponent is applied to a term that already has an exponent, the term will result in being the product of the two exponents applied to it, or (am)n = amn.

  • Power of a Product Rule. An exponent applied to two terms that possess unique variables should be applied to the required variables, or (ab)m = am * bm.

  • Power of a Quotient Rule. In fractional exponents, both the denominator and numerator will assume the exponent given, (a/b)m = am/bm.

How to Simplify Expressions with the Distributive Property

The distributive property is the property that shows us that any term multiplied by an expression on the inside of a parentheses needs be multiplied by all of the expressions within. Let’s witness the distributive property used below.

Let’s simplify the equation 2(3x + 5).

The distributive property states that a(b + c) = ab + ac. Thus, the equation becomes:

2(3x + 5) = 2(3x) + 2(5)

The result is 6x + 10.

Simplifying Expressions with Fractions

Certain expressions can consist of fractions, and just like with exponents, expressions with fractions also have several rules that you must follow.

When an expression has fractions, here is what to keep in mind.

  • Distributive property. The distributive property a(b+c) = ab + ac, when applied to fractions, will multiply fractions separately by their numerators and denominators.

  • Laws of exponents. This states that fractions will typically be the power of the quotient rule, which will apply subtraction to the exponents of the denominators and numerators.

  • Simplification. Only fractions at their lowest form should be expressed in the expression. Use the PEMDAS principle and be sure that no two terms have matching variables.

These are the exact rules that you can apply when simplifying any real numbers, whether they are decimals, square roots, binomials, linear equations, quadratic equations, and even logarithms.

Sample Questions for Simplifying Expressions

Example 1

Simplify the equation 4(2x + 5x + 7) - 3y.

Here, the properties that should be noted first are the PEMDAS and the distributive property. The distributive property will distribute 4 to all other expressions inside the parentheses, while PEMDAS will govern the order of simplification.

Due to the distributive property, the term outside the parentheses will be multiplied by each term on the inside.

The expression then becomes:

4(2x) + 4(5x) + 4(7) - 3y

8x + 20x + 28 - 3y

When simplifying equations, be sure to add all the terms with the same variables, and each term should be in its most simplified form.

28x + 28 - 3y

Rearrange the equation this way:

28x - 3y + 28

Example 2

Simplify the expression 1/3x + y/4(5x + 2)

The PEMDAS rule expresses that the you should begin with expressions on the inside of parentheses, and in this example, that expression also needs the distributive property. In this example, the term y/4 will need to be distributed within the two terms inside the parentheses, as follows.

1/3x + y/4(5x) + y/4(2)

Here, let’s put aside the first term for now and simplify the terms with factors attached to them. Because we know from PEMDAS that fractions require multiplication of their numerators and denominators separately, we will then have:

y/4 * 5x/1

The expression 5x/1 is used for simplicity because any number divided by 1 is that same number or x/1 = x. Thus,



The expression y/4(2) then becomes:

y/4 * 2/1


Thus, the overall expression is:

1/3x + 5xy/4 + 2y/4

Its final simplified version is:

1/3x + 5/4xy + 1/2y

Example 3

Simplify the expression: (4x2 + 3y)(6x + 1)

In exponential expressions, multiplication of algebraic expressions will be used to distribute every term to one another, which gives us the equation:

4x2(6x + 1) + 3y(6x + 1)

4x2(6x) + 4x2(1) + 3y(6x) + 3y(1)

For the first expression, the power of a power rule is applied, meaning that we’ll have to add the exponents of two exponential expressions with similar variables multiplied together and multiply their coefficients. This gives us:

24x3 + 4x2 + 18xy + 3y

Since there are no remaining like terms to simplify, this becomes our final answer.

Simplifying Expressions FAQs

What should I keep in mind when simplifying expressions?

When simplifying algebraic expressions, remember that you must obey the exponential rule, the distributive property, and PEMDAS rules as well as the concept of multiplication of algebraic expressions. In the end, ensure that every term on your expression is in its most simplified form.

How are simplifying expressions and solving equations different?

Solving equations and simplifying expressions are very different, however, they can be part of the same process the same process because you must first simplify expressions before solving them.

Let Grade Potential Help You Get a Grip on Math

Simplifying algebraic equations is a fundamental precalculus skills you need to learn. Increasing your skill with simplification tactics and properties will pay dividends when you’re practicing sophisticated mathematics!

But these principles and properties can get complicated fast. But there's no need for you to worry! Grade Potential is here to help!

Grade Potential Durham gives professional teachers that will get you where you need to be at your convenience. Our expert teachers will guide you through mathematical principles in a step-by-step manner to guide.

Contact us now!