Equations and Formulas

Equations and Formulas

What is an Equation? Equations and Formulas

An equation says that two things are equal. It will have an equals sign “=” like this:


That equations says: what is on the left (x + 2) is equal to what is on the right (6)

So an equation is like a statement “this equals that

What is a Formula?

A formula is a fact or rule that uses mathematical symbols.

It will usually have:

  • an equals sign (=)
  • two or more variables (x, y, etc) that stand in for values we don’t know yet

It shows us how things are related to each other.

Example: The formula for finding the volume of a box is:

V = lwh

V stands for volume, l for length, w for width, and h for height.

When l=10, w=4, and h=5, then:

V = 10 × 4 × 5 = 200

These are all equations, but only some are formulas:

x = 2y – 7Formula (relating x and y)
a2 + b2 = c2Formula (relating ab and c)
x/2 + 7 = 0Not a Formula (just an equation)

Subject of a Formula

The “subject” of a formula is the single variable (usually on the left of the “=”) that everything else is equal to.

Example: in the formula

s = ut + ½ at2

“s” is the subject of the formula


Changing the Subject

A very powerful thing that Algebra can do is to “rearrange” a formula so that another variable is the subject.

Example: Rearrange the volume of a box formula (V = lwh) so that the width is the subject

Start with:V = lwh

divide both sides by h:V/h = lw

divide both sides by l:V/(hl) = w

swap sides:w = V/(hl)

So if we want a box with a volume of 12, a length of 2, and a height of 2, we can calculate its width:

w =V/(hl)

=12 / (2 × 2)

=12 / 4




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