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Principles of Classical Algebra

In elementary algebra letters are used to stand for numbers. For example, in the equation
ax2+bx+c=0, the letters a, b, and c stand for various known constant numbers called coefficients
and the letter x is an unknown variable number whose value depends on the values of a, b, and c
and may be determined by solving the equation. Much of classical algebra is concerned with
finding solutions to equations or systems of equations, i.e., finding the roots, or values of the
unknowns, that upon substitution into the original equation will make it a numerical identity. For
example, x=-2 is a root of x2-2x-8=0 because (-2)2-2(-2)-8=4+4-8=0; substitution will verify that
x=4 is also a root of this equation.
The equations of elementary algebra usually involve polynomial functions of one or more
variables (see function). The equation in the preceding example involves a polynomial of second
degree in the single variable x (see quadratic). One method of finding the zeros of the polynomial
function f(x), i.e., the roots of the equation f(x)=0, is to factor the polynomial, if possible. The
polynomial x2-2x-8 has factors (x+2) and (x-4), since (x+2)(x-4)=x2-2x-8, so that setting either of
these factors equal to zero will make the polynomial zero. In general, if (x-r) is a factor of a
polynomial f(x), then r is a zero of the polynomial and a root of the equation f(x)=0. To
determine if (x-r) is a factor, divide it into f(x); according to the Factor Theorem, if the remainder
f(r)—found by substituting r for x in the original polynomial—is zero, then (x-r) is a factor of
f(x). Although a polynomial has real coefficients, its roots may not be real numbers; e.g., x2-9
separates into (x+3)(x-3), which yields two zeros, x=-3 and x=+3, but the zeros of x2+9 are
imaginary numbers.
The Fundamental Theorem of Algebra states that every polynomial f(x)=anxn+an-1xn-1+ …
+a1x+a0, with an/=0 and n>=1, has at least one complex root, from which it follows that the
equation f(x)=0 has exactly n roots, which may be real or complex and may not all be distinct.
For example, the equation x4+4x3+5x2+4x+4=0 has four roots, but two are identical and the other
two are complex; the factors of the polynomial are (x+2)(x+2)(x+i)(x-i), as can be verified by

algebra, branch of mathematics concerned with operations on sets of numbers or other elements
that are often represented by symbols. Algebra is a generalization of arithmetic and gains much
of its power from dealing symbolically with elements and operations (such as addition and
multiplication) and relationships (such as equality) connecting the elements. Thus, a+a=2a and
a+b=b+a no matter what numbers a and b represent.

Classical Results in Linear Algebra1

Nils Barth
Harvard University

We give a formula for determining when a set of k vectors in n-space is linearly

independent, and if so, what is the volume of the parallelepiped with these vectors as its
sides. This function, the gramian, allows one to partially apply the determinant when the
number of vectors you have is less than the dimension of the ambient space. These results
were classically known, but are not part of the standard linear algebra curriculum.
Prerequisites: familiarity with matrices and determinants.

Given k vectors in n-dimensional space, when are they linearly independent, and what is the
k-volume of the parallelepiped that they define? When k = n, the answer is familiar:
arrange the vectors in a matrix and take the determinant. The vectors are then linearly
dependent iff the determinant is zero, and otherwise the volume of the parallelepiped,
Vol(v1,...,vk), is the absolute value of the determinant. For k < n, the widely known answers
are piecemeal: for k = 2, n = 3, one can use the cross product; to determine linear
dependence, one can use gaussian elimination, though this is an algorithm, rather than a
formula. Ideally, one would have some analog for the determinant which applies when the
number of vectors is not equal to the dimension of the ambient space. This answer is
provided in the gramian, which we introduce below; we loosely follow [1].
Notation and Review

Let us fix a vector space Kn, where K is a subfield of the complex numbers. For example, let
K = R, the real numbers, which is euclidean space; the other main example is the complex
numbers, and there is little loss of generality in only considering these. We write vectors
vertically and covectors (elements of the dual space (Kn)*) horizontally. We write W < V to
indicate that W is a subspace of V. Given a collection of vectors { v1,...,vk}, denote the
parallelepiped with sides v1,...,vk by P(v1,...,vk).
If { v1,...,vk} is linearly dependent, this definition doesn't make sense; more formally,

P(v1,...,vk) = { a1v1+...+anvn |0 =< ai =< 1, a1+...+an=<1}


When { v1,...,vk} are linearly independent, P(v1,...,vk) has a well-defined k-volume (volume
as a subset of k-dimensional space); when they are linearly dependent, this volume is zero.
Note that if you have, for instance, 3 vectors in 2-space, then P(v1,...,v3) has non-zero
volume as a subset of 2-space, but it is "flat" and thus has zero volume as a subset of 3-
Recall that an inner product is a choice of distance (and also volume) in a vector space; the
main example is the dot product, defined as

v·w = v*w,

which is a scalar, and where v* = conj(v)T is the complex conjugate of the transpose. We
take complex conjugates so that complex vectors have real length; if K = R, this reduces to
v·w = vTw. We define the norm (length) of v as
||v|| = v·v = v*v.

Matrices that preserve distances and angles, i.e., Ov·Ow = v·w, are of particular interest,
and are called orthogonal;2 these correspond to rigid motions. For instance, orthogonal
transforms of R2 are rotations and reflections.
The Gramian and Its Basic Properties
Definition 4 [gramian] The gramian of v1,...,vk is G(v1,...,vk) = detM*M, where

M = (v1...vk)

and M* = [conj(M)]T is the conjugate transpose of M.

Note the similarity to the norm (3); in fact, G(v) = ||v||, so the gramian of a single vector
is the length, i.e., the 1-dimensional volume, of that vector.
If we calculate the entries of M*M, we obtain the following characterization of the gramian:
Definition 6 [gramian-alternate] G(v1,...,vk) = detA, where aij = vi·vj.
This presentation shows that the matrix M*M captures all the geometric information about
the vectors { v1,...,vk}: the length of the vectors and the angles between them. Further,
this is the only information that it contains; we've lost the particular orientations of the
vectors and their embedding in n-space. We claim that this is enough information to easily
determine the volume.
Consider the case where k = n; then det M*M = [conj(det M)](det M) = |det M|2. In
particular, G(v1,...,vk) >= 0. Since Vol(v1,...,vk) = |det M|, we obtain:

Vol(v1,...,vk) = (det M*M)^1/2

= G(v1,...,vk)^1/2 (7)

The (i,j)-th entry of A = M*M is vi·vj; the above shows that the volume depends only on
these inner products.
For any collection of k vectors, the above holds by simply restricting to a k-dimensional
subspace containing them; that is, Vol(v1,...,vk) = detA. By using (6), we obtain the
following geometric characterization of the gramian:
Proposition 8 Vol(v1,...,vk) = G(v1,...,vk)^1/2.
Note that in case k =< n, we still have G(v1,...,vk) >= 0, so this is well-defined.
Proof. The proof was sketched above; we fill in the details here.
Given v1,...,vk, where k =< n, assume that they are linearly independent3 and pick an
orthonormal basis w1,...,wk for their span, W. Extend to an orthonormal basis w1,...,wn for
Kn; the matrix O sending wi --> ei is an orthogonal change of coordinates, so it does not
change inner products: O(v)·O(w) = v·w. Let v'i = O(vi); then
m2i ]
: ]
(v'i) = mki ]
[ ,
0 ]
: ]
0 ]

since vi is in the span of w1,...,wk. The set { v'1,...,v'k} visibly lies in the k-dimensional
subspace of vectors with last n-k coordinates zero, so the k-volume of P(v'1,...,v'k) is |det
M|, where mij is defined as above. Effectively, we are restricting to the subspace W. By the
discussion before this proposition, Vol(v'1,...,v'k) = {det M*M}^1/2 (we're just dropping the
trailing zeros). Since O is orthogonal,

Vol(v'1,...,v'k) = Vol(v1,...,vk)

and v'i·v'j = vi·vj, so

G(v1,...,vk)^1/2 = Vol(v'1,...,v'k) = Vol(v1,...,vk),

as desired.
When k > n, the vectors are linearly dependent, so the k-volume of P(v1,...,vk) is zero. In
this case the gramian is zero, by the argument in the proof of (11), below. [X]
In particular, the k-volume of P(v1,...,vk) is zero iff { v1,...,vk} don't form the sides of a k-
parallelepiped; that is, if P(v1,...,vk) has dimension less than k. This yields:
Corollary 11 [Gram's criterion for linear dependence of vectors] The set of vectors
{ v1,...,vk } is linearly dependent iff G(v1,...,vk) = 0.
Proof. We just dealt with the case k =< n; it remains to show that if k > n, the gramian is
zero. Consider A = M*M; each row of the k×k matrix A is a linear combination of rows of M,
of which there are n. Thus, the row-rank of A is at most n < k, so its determinant is zero.
Note that the gramian is always nonnegative,4 and equals zero iff the vectors are linearly
dependent. As a consequence, we obtain the familiar:
Corollary 12 [Bunyakovskii-Cauchy-Schwarz inequality] (v·w)2 =< ||v|| ||w||, with
equality iff v,w are linearly dependent (one is a multiple of the other).
Proof. G(v,w) => 0, with equality iff v,w are linearly dependent. Now
( v·v v·w
) ( ||v|| v·w )
G(v,w) = det (
) = det ( ) = ||v|| ||w||-(v·w)2;(13)
( w·v w·w
) ( v·w ||w|| )

the result follows.

10 Everyday Reasons Why Algebra is

Important in your Life
Mathematics is one of the first things you learn in life. Even as a baby you learn to count. Starting
from that tiny age you will start to learn how to use building blocks how to count and then move on
to drawing objects and figures. All of these things are important preparation to doing algebra.
The key to opportunity
These are the years of small beginnings until the day comes that you have to be able to do
something as intricate as algebra. Algebra is the key that will unlock the door before you. Having
the ability to do algebra will help you excel into the field that you want to specialize in. We live in
a world where only the best succeed.
Taking a detour on not
Having the ability and knowledge to do algebra will determine whether you will take the short cut
or the detour in the road of life. In other words, ample opportunities or career choices to decide
from or limited positions with a low annual income.
Prerequisite for advanced training
Most employers expect their employees to be able to do the fundamentals of algebra. If you want to
do any advanced training you will have to be able to be fluent in the concept of letters and symbols
used to represent quantities.
When doing any form of science, whether just a project or a lifetime career choice, you will have to
be able to do and understand how to use and apply algebra.
Every day life
Formulas are a part of our lives. Whether we drive a car and need to calculate the distance, or need
to work out the volume in a milk container, algebraic formulas are used everyday without you even
realizing it.
When it comes to analyzing anything, whether the cost, price or profit of a business you will need
to be able to do algebra. Margins need to be set and calculations need to be made to do strategic
planning and analyzing is the way to do it.
Data entry
What about the entering of any data. Your use of algebraic expressions and the use of equations
will be like a corner stone when working with data entry. When working on the computer with
spreadsheets you will need algebraic skills to enter, design and plan.
Decision making
Decisions like which cell phone provider gives the best contracts to deciding what type of vehicle
to buy, you will use algebra to decide which one is the best one. By drawing up a graph and
weighing the best option you will get the best value for your money.
Interest Rates
How much can you earn on an annual basis with the correct interest rate. How will you know
which company gives the best if you can't work out the graphs and understand the percentages. In
today's life a good investment is imperative.
Writing of assignments
When writing any assignments the use of graphs, data and math will validate your statements and
make it appear more professional. Professionalism is of the essence if you want to move ahead and
be taken seriously.
Can you see the importance of algebra? Your day can be made a lot easier with planning. In
financial decisions this can save you a lot of finances or maybe get you the best price available. It
all comes down to planning and using the knowledge and algebraic skills you have to benefit your
own life.

We use algebra when comparing the prices of phone networks or cars and
working out how long it could take to get to a certain location. Also for how
much paint you would need to decorate a certain area and how many
plants can be planted onto a certain area. Below is an example of how algebra
can be used when seeing the amount of items you could buy for a certain
amount of money:
If you go to the grocery store and have ten dollars to spend on two dollar candy
bars. This gives us the equation 2x = 10 where x is the number of candy bars you
can buy. Many people don't realize that this sort of calculation is Algebra, they just
sub-contiously do it!

Algebra is useful in two ways:

a) To comprehend the higher concepts of Trigonometry, Calculus or even Statistics

(if you did it during your school years) you maybe need to pass your course.

b) To develop skills of computing and abstraction needed in order to understand

complex concepts found in our daily jobs. Algebra is a reasoning science, so I guess
that studying it lets your brain awake up to its abstract side, to exercise it, to grow

Algebra is used a lot in the Business world. Walmart for instance became one of the
largest US corporations because the founder realized that he could reduce his costs
by about 5% doing his own shipping and distribution. 5% may not sound like a lot,
but when you're looking at billions of dollars, it adds up quick. Percentages are
ratios, which are algebraic. A lot of the algebra used is done by machines such as
cash registers, however the application is much more in depth when you start
looking at more technical fields such as engineering, medicine, food science, etc. A
doctor for example may need to figure out how long he needs to keep a patient off
of one medication, using logarithmic decay of concentration in the body over time,
before it is safe to start a new medication. Bankers also use logarithmic functions as
compound interest is can be looked at as a logarithmic function, so the banker has
to be able to calculate the net value of an account. In the food service industry,
cleanliness standards, and food handling standards are determined by exponential
growth of pathogens in prepared food with known conditions.