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Learn algebra with online courses and programs

Learn algebra to explore new ways of thinking and build problem-solving skills. Study algebra equations and practice advanced algebra problems with online courses delivered through edX.

What is algebra?

Algebra is a branch of mathematics that uses letters and symbols to represent numbers in formulas and equations. Mathematicians use algebraic formulas to solve problems and understand how those symbols relate to each other. For example, the Pythagorean Theorem states that a²+b²=c², demonstrating a relationship between the lengths of a triangle’s sides.

The origins of algebra can be traced back to ninth-century Palestine. Mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi wrote a book called “Kitab Al-Jabr,” from which the word algebra was derived.Footnote 1 The book covers numerous topics including how to solve quadratic equations and how to calculate area and volume.

As mathematicians discovered new applications and equations, algebra has expanded into many sub-branches, including:

  • Elementary algebra: Sometimes referred to as algebra 1, this branch covers basic algebra problems, symbols, and equations. It is the stepping stone for more complex algebraic equations.

  • Abstract algebra: Sometimes referred to as modern algebra, this sub-branch includes the study of algebraic structures such as vector spaces and groups.

  • Linear algebra: This branch covers linear mappings between vector spaces, as well as the study of planes and lines.

  • Commutative algebra: This branch of abstract algebra studies communicative rings and their relation to vector space.

Algebra is used in a variety of professions, from teaching to accounting to marketing research. Architects, data analysts, and fashion designers rely on algebra in their day-to-day work. Learning algebra can also be helpful in practical situations, such as calculating your average pace during a run, determining the amount of fencing needed for your yard, or comparing the price per unit between two competing products.

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Algebra course curriculum

Algebra is an essential aspect of arithmetic and a key part of both high school and some college math curricula. Through introductory and advanced online algebra courses delivered by edX, you can learn basic algebra and abstract algebra. 

An introductory course in algebra can be a great way to learn algebra 1. These courses cover  basics to help learners firmly grasp the foundational elements of algebra. This can be helpful for individuals who want to work toward a career in mathematics or prepare for an MBA program. Solving basic algebra equations and learning how to handle integers, decimals, fractions, exponents, and square roots is integral to understanding algebra. Other important elements of algebra often taught in introductory courses include inverse functions and graphing.  

A more advanced algebra class or program may teach learners how to apply algebra to a wide range of real-world problems and study critical algebraic concepts like functions, domains, ranges, and linear algebra. Many online algebra tutorials and courses are self-paced so you can enroll and learn on a schedule that works for you.

Jobs that use algebra

Understanding algebra equations and how to use them can help you stand out in the professional world. In fact, many roles require a working knowledge of algebra to complete day-to-day responsibilities.

Accounting and banking are two professions that use algebra on a daily basis. Accountants use algebra to balance spreadsheets, forecast costs, and create business spending reports, while bankers use algebra to calculate interest rates and taxes. Business owners across all fields also use algebra to calculate run rates, revenue, and profit margins.


Medical professionals often use algebra to administer drugs, detect pattern irregularities, and fill prescriptions for their patients. Converting different drug doses is relatively common in the medical field, so being able to solve problems using algebra is important. 

Architects rely on algebra to interpret a building’s height, as well as the width of rooms, hallways, and floors. Civil engineers apply algebraic formulas to calculate how much weight a bridge or road can handle.Footnote 2 Computer scientists and software engineers frequently employ linear algebra to design algorithms and develop software.Footnote 3 Many computer functions ranging from from graphic creation to machine learning are also powered by linear algebra concepts. 

While algebra can be extremely useful in a multitude of professions, knowledge of algebra is not the only requirement to earn a job in one of these fields. If you’re interested in advancing your algebra skills, consider enrolling in a boot camp program, a bachelor’s degree program, or exploring a master’s degree

How to become a computer scientist online

Algebra, specifically linear algebra, is a key concept in computer science. If you enjoy algebra, computer science could be a fitting career path for you. Earning an online bachelor's degree in computer science or data science is an excellent way to kickstart a career in computer science. 

Learning linear algebra is usually a requirement for obtaining a degree in computer science. Aspiring computer scientists may also consider enrolling in an online coding boot camp to gain hands-on experience with the tools used in the field prior to starting a bachelor’s degree. Other required courses typically include information theory, theory of computation, calculus, and coding.

Once you have a basic understanding of computer science, and have graduated from a bachelor’s program, you can further your skills with an online master’s in data science. Within the computer science field, the more experience you have with the tools in the industry, the better. While a master’s degree is not required to land a job in computer science, furthering your education in the field can help you advance your knowledge and become a specialist.

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