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Study Guides > Mathematics for the Liberal Arts Corequisite

Using the Division and Multiplication Properties of Equality for Multi-Step Equations

Learning Outcomes

  • Solve a linear equation that requires simplification before using properties of equality
  • Solve a linear equation that requires a combination of the properties of equality
Many equations start out more complicated than the ones we’ve just solved. Our goal has been to familiarize you with the many ways to apply the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division properties that are used to solve equations algebraically. Let's work through an example that will employ the following techniques:
  • simplify by combining like terms
  • isolate x by using the division property of equality


Solve: [latex]8x+9x - 5x=-3+15[/latex] Solution: First, we need to simplify both sides of the equation as much as possible Start by combining like terms to simplify each side.
Combine like terms.[latex]12x=12[/latex]
Divide both sides by 12 to isolate x.[latex]\Large\frac{12x}{\color{red}{12}}\normalsize =\Large\frac{12}{\color{red}{12}}[/latex]
Check your answer. Let [latex]x=1[/latex]
Here is a similar problem for you to try.

Try it

You may not always have the variables on the left side of the equation, so we will show an example with variables on the right side. You will see that the properties used to solve this equation are exactly the same as the previous example.


Solve: [latex]11 - 20=17y - 8y - 6y[/latex]

Answer: Solution: Simplify each side by combining like terms.

Simplify each side.[latex]-9=3y[/latex]
Divide both sides by 3 to isolate y.[latex]\Large\frac{-9}{\color{red}{3}}\normalsize =\Large\frac{3y}{\color{red}{3}}[/latex]
Check your answer. Let [latex]y=-3[/latex]
[latex]11-20\stackrel{\text{?}}{=}17( \color{red}{-3})-8(\color{red}{-3})-6(\color{red}{-3})[/latex]

Notice that the variable ended up on the right side of the equal sign when we solved the equation. You may prefer to take one more step to write the solution with the variable on the left side of the equal sign. Now you can try solving a similar problem.

try it

In our next example, we have an equation that contains a set of parentheses.  We will use the distributive property of multiplication over addition first, simplify, then use the division property to finally solve.


Solve: [latex]-3\left(n - 2\right)-6=21[/latex] Remember—always simplify each side first.

Answer: Solution:

Divide both sides by -3 to isolate n.[latex]\Large\frac{-3n}{\color{red}{-3}}\normalsize =\Large\frac{21}{\color{red}{-3}}[/latex][latex]n=-7[/latex]
Check your answer. Let [latex]n=-7[/latex] .

Now you can try a similar problem.

try it

In the following video you will see another example of using the division property of equality to solve an equation as well as  another example of how to solve a multi-step equation that includes a set of parentheses. https://youtu.be/qe89pkRKzRw

Licenses & Attributions

CC licensed content, Original

  • Solving an Equation with One Set of Parentheses. Authored by: James Sousa (Mathispower4u.com) for Lumen Learning. License: CC BY: Attribution.
  • Solve Linear Equations in One Variable with Simplifying (One-Step Mult/Div). Authored by: James Sousa (Mathispower4u.com) for Lumen Learning. License: CC BY: Attribution.

CC licensed content, Shared previously

  • Question ID 141884, 141901, 141911. Authored by: Lumen Learning. License: CC BY: Attribution. License terms: IMathAS Community License, CC-BY + GPL.

CC licensed content, Specific attribution