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One common type of expressions called linear expressions. These expressions are useful to model different situations in real life. Because of this, it is sometimes necessary to perform mathematical operations with these expressions. This lesson will explore how to identify linear expressions and how to add or subtract them.

Catch-Up and Review

Here are a few recommended readings before getting started with this lesson.


Buying Equipment for a Competition

Dominika really enjoys longboard dancing. She is excited to participate in a competition soon. However, she needs some equipment, so she decided to go to the local skate shop to buy some stuff.


Dominika used her receipt to write out what she spent as an algebraic expression. Maybe her math teacher would give her extra credit when she showed it to him!

Dominika's notes of her expenses. Expression: 5x+2

While preparing her board for practice, Dominika noticed that she forgot to buy a couple of things, so she had to go back to the store. She wrote another expression for her new purchase.

Dominika's notes of her expenses. Expressions: 5x+2 and 7+3x

Now she is ready to practice. On her way to the park to practice, Dominika wondered how to combine the expressions to represent the total she spent at the store. Write an expression for her total expenses.


Linear Expressions

A linear term is an algebraic expression that includes a coefficient multiplied by a variable with an exponent of one. A linear expression is an expression that includes at least one linear term and any constant terms. No other type of terms may be included. The most common form of a linear expression is given below.

The linear expression ax+b, where a is the coefficient, x is the variable, ax is the linear term, and b is the constant term.

In this expression, and are real numbers, with To completely understand the definition of a linear expression, some important concepts will be be broken down. Consider the example linear expression

Concept Explanation Example
Term Parts of an expression separated by a or sign.
Coefficient A constant that multiplies a variable. If a coefficient is it does not need to be written due to the Identity Property of Multiplication.
Linear Term A term that contains exactly one variable whose exponent is
Constant Term A term that contains no variables. It consists only of a number with its corresponding sign.

The following table shows some examples of linear and non-linear expressions.

Linear Expressions Non-linear Expressions
It is important to keep in mind that before classifying an expression, it must be written in simplest form.
The expression looks like a linear expression, but the result after simplifying is which is a constant and therefore not a linear expression.
Pop Quiz

Identifying Linear Expressions

Determine whether the given expression is a linear expression.

Determining if an expression is linear random generator

Adding and Subtracting Linear Expressions

When adding or subtracting linear expressions, the process is similar to performing those operations on numbers. As an example, consider two linear expressions.
Next, these expressions will be added and subtracted.


To add two linear expressions, follow the same process as adding two numbers.
The result is an expression with two terms and two constants. Next, pair up these terms into two sets of like terms. Finally, combine each pair of like terms and simplify.
Adding two linear expressions can result in either a new linear expression or a constant, depending on whether the linear terms cancel each other out.


Subtracting linear expressions is similar to adding them. However, when writing the expression of the subtraction, it is important to distribute the negative sign to change each of terms in the subtrahend expression to its additive inverse.
Next, group like terms and simplify the expression.
In summary, when adding and subtracting linear expressions, simplify the resulting expression by combining like terms.

Longboard Dancing Practice Time

Dominika met up with her friends over the weekend to practice for the competition.


She documented her practice times using linear expressions.

Day Practice Time (minutes)
a Write an expression for the total practice time on Friday and Saturday.
b Dominika and her friends practiced more on Saturday than on Sunday. Write the difference between the practice times on these days.


a Add the expressions for the practice times on Friday and Saturday.
b Subtract the expression representing Sunday's practice time from the expression for Saturday's practice time.


a Add the practice time from each day to write the total practice time for Friday and Saturday.
The corresponding expressions can be found in the given table.
Day Practice Time (Minutes)
When the total expression is written, it can be simplified by combining the like terms.
Dominika and her friends practiced for minutes in total on Friday and Saturday.
b This time Sunday's practice time will be subtracted from Saturday's.
The corresponding expressions can be found in the given table.
Day Practice Time (Minutes)
When subtracting these expressions, remember to distribute the negative sign!
Since it is given that the friends practiced longer on Saturday, this means that Dominika and her friends practiced for minutes longer on Saturday than on Sunday.

Longboard Competition Results

Finally, it is time for the longboard competition!


Each participant's score is given by adding the two best scores from three rounds. After receiving her scores, Dominika wrote her final score as an expression.
Dominika is really proud of her score and she thinks that she can win. After seeing her friend Magdalena perform, though, Dominika starts thinking that maybe Magdalena will win. She then wrote down Magdalena's two best scores.
Magdalena's Two Best Scores

In the end, Dominika and Magdalena placed in the top two positions of the competition.

a Write a simplified expression for the difference between Dominika's and Magdalena's scores.
b Who won first place?


a Subtract the sum of Magdalena's scores from Dominika's score.
b Who has the higher score?


a The difference between Dominika's and Magdalena's final scores can be found by subtracting Magdalena's final score from Dominika's score.
Magdalena's final score is not given but it can be found by adding her two best scores. Then the difference between the girls' scores can be written as an expression.
Here, the sum of two linear expressions is subtracted from another linear expression. Remember that the order of operations must be followed — this means that the expressions between parentheses are simplified first by combining the like terms.
Magdalena's final score is This score will be subtracted from Dominika's final score.
The difference between their scores is They are really close!
b In Part A, it was found that subtracting Magdalena's final score from Dominika's score results in
This means that Magdalena's score is slightly higher than Dominika's. Since the girls won the top two places, Magdalena won the first place.
Dominika did not win first place in the competition, but she is really proud of herself for winning second place and being so close. Now she is motivated to practice and get even better!
Pop Quiz

Practice Adding and Subtracting Linear Expressions

Add or subtract the given linear expressions.

Applet for adding or Subtracting two linear expressions

How Much Did Dominika Spend on Equipment?

Earlier in this lesson, Dominika wrote a couple of expressions to show how much she spent on two different days buying equipment for the competition.

Dominika's notes of her expenses. Expressions: 5x+2 and 7+3x
Dominika wanted to combine the expressions to find one that reflected how much money she spent in total. Notice that the expressions she wrote are linear expressions. To add them, like terms should be grouped together and then added.
This means that Dominika spent in total when buying the equipment. She is really dedicated to longboard dancing!
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