Welcome to Intermediate Algebra, an OpenStax resource. This textbook was written to increase student access to high-quality learning materials, maintaining highest standards of academic rigor at little to no cost.

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About Intermediate Algebra

Intermediate Algebra is designed to meet the scope and sequence requirements of a one-semester Intermediate algebra course. The book’s organization makes it easy to adapt to a variety of course syllabi. The text expands on the fundamental concepts of algebra while addressing the needs of students with diverse backgrounds and learning styles. Each topic builds upon previously developed material to demonstrate the cohesiveness and structure of mathematics.

Coverage and Scope

Intermediate Algebra continues the philosophies and pedagogical features of Prealgebra and Elementary Algebra, by Lynn Marecek and MaryAnne Anthony-Smith. By introducing the concepts and vocabulary of algebra in a nurturing, non-threatening environment while also addressing the needs of students with diverse backgrounds and learning styles, the book helps students gain confidence in their ability to succeed in the course and become successful college students.

The material is presented as a sequence of small, and clear steps to conceptual understanding. The order of topics was carefully planned to emphasize the logical progression throughout the course and to facilitate a thorough understanding of each concept. As new ideas are presented, they are explicitly related to previous topics.

  • Chapter 1: Foundations

    Chapter 1 reviews arithmetic operations with whole numbers, integers, fractions, decimals and real numbers, to give the student a solid base that will support their study of algebra.

  • Chapter 2: Solving Linear Equations and Inequalities

    In Chapter 2, students learn to solve linear equations using the Properties of Equality and a general strategy. They use a problem-solving strategy to solve number, percent, mixture and uniform motion applications. Solving a formula for a specific variable, and also solving both linear and compound inequalities is presented.

  • Chapter 3: Graphs and Functions

    Chapter 3 covers the rectangular coordinate system where students learn to plot graph linear equations in two variables, graph with intercepts, understand slope of a line, use the slope-intercept form of an equation of a line, find the equation of a line, and create graphs of linear inequalities. The chapter also introduces relations and functions as well as graphing of functions.

  • Chapter 4: Systems of Linear Equations

    Chapter 4 covers solving systems of equations by graphing, substitution, and elimination; solving applications with systems of equations, solving mixture applications with systems of equations, and graphing systems of linear inequalities. Systems of equations are also solved using matrices and determinants.

  • Chapter 5: Polynomials and Polynomial Functions

    In Chapter 5, students learn how to add and subtract polynomials, use multiplication properties of exponents, multiply polynomials, use special products, divide monomials and polynomials, and understand integer exponents and scientific notation.

  • Chapter 6: Factoring

    In Chapter 6, students learn the process of factoring expressions and see how factoring is used to solve quadratic equations.

  • Chapter 7: Rational Expressions and Functions

    In Chapter 7, students work with rational expressions, solve rational equations and use them to solve problems in a variety of applications, and solve rational inequalities.

  • Chapter 8: Roots and Radical

    In Chapter 8, students simplify radical expressions, rational exponents, perform operations on radical expressions, and solve radical equations. Radical functions and the complex number system are introduced

  • Chapter 9: Quadratic Equations

    In Chapter 9, students use various methods to solve quadratic equations and equations in quadratic form and learn how to use them in applications. Students will graph quadratic functions using their properties and by transformations.

  • Chapter 10: Exponential and Logarithmic Functions

    In Chapter 10, students find composite and inverse functions, evaluate, graph, and solve both exponential and logarithmic functions.

  • Chapter 11: Conics

    In Chapter 11, the properties and graphs of circles, parabolas, ellipses and hyperbolas are presented. Students also solve applications using the conics and solve systems of nonlinear equations.

  • Chapter 12: Sequences, Series and the Binomial Theorem

    In Chapter 12, students are introduced to sequences, arithmetic sequences, geometric sequences and series and the binomial theorem.

All chapters are broken down into multiple sections, the titles of which can be viewed in the Table of Contents.

Key Features and Boxes

Examples Each learning objective is supported by one or more worked examples, which demonstrate the problem-solving approaches that students must master. Typically, we include multiple examples for each learning objective to model different approaches to the same type of problem, or to introduce similar problems of increasing complexity.

All examples follow a simple two- or three-part format. First, we pose a problem or question. Next, we demonstrate the solution, spelling out the steps along the way. Finally (for select examples), we show students how to check the solution. Most examples are written in a two-column format, with explanation on the left and math on the right to mimic the way that instructors “talk through” examples as they write on the board in class.

Be Prepared! Each section, beginning with Section 2.1, starts with a few “Be Prepared!” exercises so that students can determine if they have mastered the prerequisite skills for the section. Reference is made to specific Examples from previous sections so students who need further review can easily find explanations. Answers to these exercises can be found in the supplemental resources that accompany this title.

Try It


Try it The Try It feature includes a pair of exercises that immediately follow an Example, providing the student with an immediate opportunity to solve a similar problem with an easy reference to the example. In the Web View version of the text, students can click an Answer link directly below the question to check their understanding. In the PDF, answers to the Try It exercises are located in the Answer Key.

How To


How To Examples use a three column format to demonstrate how to solve an example with a certain procedure. The first column states the formal step, the second column is in words as the teacher would explain the process, and then the third column is the actual math. A How To procedure box follows each of these How To examples and summarizes the series of steps from the example. These procedure boxes provide an easy reference for students.



Media The “Media” icon appears at the conclusion of each section, just prior to the Self Check. This icon marks a list of links to online video tutorials that reinforce the concepts and skills introduced in the section.

Disclaimer: While we have selected tutorials that closely align to our learning objectives, we did not produce these tutorials, nor were they specifically produced or tailored to accompany Intermediate Algebra.

Self Check The Self Check includes the learning objectives for the section so that students can self-assess their mastery and make concrete plans to improve.

Art Program

Intermediate Algebra contains many figures and illustrations. Art throughout the text adheres to a clear, understated style, drawing the eye to the most important information in each figure while minimizing visual distractions.

This figure shows three x y-coordinate planes. The first plane shows two lines which intersect at one point. Under the graph it says, “The lines intersect. Intersecting lines have one point in common. There is one solution to this system.” The second x y-coordinate plane shows two parallel lines. Under the graph it says, “The lines are parallel. Parallel lines have no points in common. There is no solution to this system.” The third x y-coordinate plane shows one line. Under the graph it says, “Both equations give the same line. Because we have just one line, there are infinitely many solutions.”

Section Exercises and Chapter Review

Section Exercises Each section of every chapter concludes with a well-rounded set of exercises that can be assigned as homework or used selectively for guided practice. Exercise sets are named Practice Makes Perfect to encourage completion of homework assignments.

  • Exercises correlate to the learning objectives. This facilitates assignment of personalized study plans based on individual student needs.
  • Exercises are carefully sequenced to promote building of skills.
  • Values for constants and coefficients were chosen to practice and reinforce arithmetic facts.
  • Even and odd-numbered exercises are paired.
  • Exercises parallel and extend the text examples and use the same instructions as the examples to help students easily recognize the connection.
  • Applications are drawn from many everyday experiences, as well as those traditionally found in college math texts.
  • Everyday Math highlights practical situations using the concepts from that particular section
  • Writing Exercises are included in every exercise set to encourage conceptual understanding, critical thinking, and literacy.

Chapter review Each chapter concludes with a review of the most important takeaways, as well as additional practice problems that students can use to prepare for exams.

  • Key Terms provide a formal definition for each bold-faced term in the chapter.
  • Key Concepts summarize the most important ideas introduced in each section, linking back to the relevant Example(s) in case students need to review.
  • Chapter Review Exercises include practice problems that recall the most important concepts from each section.
  • Practice Test includes additional problems assessing the most important learning objectives from the chapter.
  • Answer Key includes the answers to all Try It exercises and every other exercise from the Section Exercises, Chapter Review Exercises, and Practice Test.

Additional Resources

Student and Instructor Resources

We’ve compiled additional resources for both students and instructors, including Getting Started Guides, manipulative mathematics worksheets, an answer key to the Be Prepared Exercises, and an answer guide to the section review exercises. Instructor resources require a verified instructor account, which can be requested on your log-in. Take advantage of these resources to supplement your OpenStax book.

Partner Resources

OpenStax partners are our allies in the mission to make high-quality learning materials affordable and accessible to students and instructors everywhere. Their tools integrate seamlessly with our OpenStax titles at a low cost. To access the partner resources for your text, visit your book page on

About the Authors

Senior Contributing Author

Lynn Marecek, Santa Ana College

Lynn Marecek has been teaching mathematics at Santa Ana College for many years has focused her career on meeting the needs of developmental math students. At Santa Ana College, she has been awarded the Distinguished Faculty Award, Innovation Award, and the Curriculum Development Award four times. She is a Coordinator of the Freshman Experience Program, the Department Facilitator for Redesign, and a member of the Student Success and Equity Committee, and the Basic Skills Initiative Task Force.

She is the coauthor with MaryAnne Anthony-Smith of Strategies for Success: Study Skills for the College Math Student, Prealgebra published by OpenStax and Elementary Algebra published by OpenStax.


Shaun Ault, Valdosta State University

Brandie Biddy, Cecil College

Kimberlyn Brooks, Cuyahoga Community College

Michael Cohen, Hofstra University

Robert Diaz, Fullerton College

Dianne Hendrickson, Becker College

Linda Hunt, Shawnee State University

Stephanie Krehl, Mid-South Community College

Yixia Lu, South Suburban College

Teresa Richards, Butte-Glenn College

Christian Roldán- Johnson, College of Lake County Community College

Yvonne Sandoval, El Camino College

Gowribalan Vamadeva, University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College

Kim Watts, North Lake college

Libby Watts, Tidewater Community College

Matthew Watts, Tidewater Community College


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Intermediate Algebra Copyright © 2017 by OSCRiceUniversity is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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