Multiplying Expressions in Algebra
(KS3, Year 8)

homealgebramultiplying expressions in algebra
Expressions can be multiplied. Imagine we wanted to multiply the expressions x + 1 and 3 − y.

multiply expressions

How to Multiply Expressions in Algebra

Multiplying expressions in algebra is easy.


Multiply the expressions below.
multiply expressions example



Put brackets around each expression and write them next to each other. multiply_expressions_example_step_1


Expand the double brackets. Use the FOIL method to expand the brackets.
x2 Firsts \(\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\) (x + 1)(x + 2) \(\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\) x × x
x2 + 2x Outsides \(\:\:\:\:\:\:\) (x + 1)(x + 2) \(\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\) x × 2
x2 + 2x + x Insides \(\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\) (x + 1)(x + 2) \(\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\) 1 × x
x2 + 2x + x + 2 Lasts \(\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\) (x + 1)(x + 2) \(\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\:\) 1 × 2


Simplify the expression if necessary by collecting like terms together. In our example, we can collect the x terms together.
x2 + 2x + x + 2 = x2 + 3x + 2


We have multiplied the expressions. multiply_expressions_answer

Lesson Slides

The slider below shows another real example of how to multiply expressions in algebra.

To Expand or Not to Expand? That Is the Question

To multiply expressions, put each expression in a bracket and write them next to each other.
x + 1 × x + 3 = (x + 1)(x + 3)
This product of two brackets may be the simplest way to write the answer. The brackets can then be expanded. Whether to do this or not depends on context. Imagine having multiplied the expressions above, we then subtract another term...
(x + 1)(x + 3) − 8x
...then it is worth expanding the brackets...
x2 + 4x + 3 − 8x
Collecting like terms...
x2 − 4x + 3
...and factoring...
x2 − 4x + 3 = (x − 1)(x − 3
The moral is that multiplying expressions is yet another tool in the algebra toolbox. How you use it, and what other tools you use, depends on what job you are trying to do.
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This page was written by Stephen Clarke.

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