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# Combining like terms…

…is probably looking like an unfortunate name for adding monomials when you see a mistake like this one. Right?

Or wrong? Speak up in the comments. And more thanks to John Weisenfeld for the mistake.

## 3 replies on “Combining like terms…”

The writing makes it ambiguous. That could be 30x^544 or it could be 30x^5^4^4.

(I’d sort of hope for the latter, because just mashing the digits into a 3-digit number is a scary-weird mistake to make at that level.)

I suspect the student wasn’t assigning any meaning to the process. Stuff that was up there stayed up there, and the stuff was put together.

Distributive property! Maybe it would help if we talked about the distributive property instead of the much vaguer-sounding “like terms”. After all, that’s the property that allows us to do the combining and tells us when things are “like terms”.

On the other hand writing 12x^5 + 10x^4 + 8x^4 = 12x^5 + (10+8)*x^4 = 12x^5 + 18x^4 gets kinda long. We’d have to wean them eventually.

On the third hand maybe doing a lot of this would help them when it came time to factor things.