Absolute Value in Algebra

Absolute Value in Algebra

Absolute Value in Algebra

Absolute Value means …

… how far a number is from zero:

“6” is 6 away from zero,
and “−6” is also 6 away from zero.

So the absolute value of 6 is 6,
and the absolute value of −6 is also 6

Absolute Value Symbol

To show we want the absolute value we put “|” marks either side (called “bars”), like these examples:

|−5| = 5|7| = 7

Which says the absolute value of x equals:

  • x when x is greater than zero
  • 0 when x equals 0
  • −x when x is less than zero (this “flips” the number back to positive)

So when a number is positive or zero we leave it alone, when it is negative we change it to positive using −x.

Example: what is |−17| ?

Well, it is less than zero, so we need to calculate “−x”:

− ( −17 ) = +17

 

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