A handout from the Online
Information Series
Copyright (c) 2007, Jolene M. Morris, All Rights Reserved
The best way to type algebra expressions and equations in your word processor is by using the Equation Editor; however, that is not always the easiest or fastest way. You can type algebra using nothing but the keyboard and your word processor. This handout will explain how to type various mathematics expressions without having to use Equation Editor. If you decide to try using the Equation Editor, refer to the handout in this series on the Equation Editor.
Fonts in a word processor are of two types: proportional and monospaced. A proportional font takes a different amount of horizontal space for different letters. For example, the letters M and W are wide letters and take up considerable horizontal space, but the letters l and i are narrow and take up much less horizontal space. Examples of proportional fonts are Arial, Times Roman, and Comic Sans MS. On the other hand, monospaced fonts take the same amount of horizontal space for all letters. A monospaced font common to all computers is Courier.
If you are going to type algebra expressions using only the keyboard, you should switch to a monospaced font. If you use a monospaced font, it is easier to type more complicated expressions such as fractions, division, and rational expressions. In a monospaced font, you can use spaces to line up various numbers and they stay lined up properly.
Another hint to make your mathematical expressions easier to read is to enter a space between numbers and operation symbols:
This way: 3 + 5 = 8
Not this way: 3+5=8
The following chart shows how to type algebra expressions in your word processor using only the keyboard.
Type of Expression 
How to Type It 
Example 
Addition 
Use the plus sign (+) 
3 + 5 = 8 
Subtraction 
Use the minus sign () 
8  3 = 5 
Multiplication 
Use the dot operator (•). You get this operator by holding down the ALT key and typing 0183 on the numerical keypad.
You can also use parenthesis without a symbol between to indicate multiplication.
If you are typing only numbers (no variables), you could also use the traditional multiplication sign (×) made by holding down the ALT key and typing 0215 on the numerical keypad. Do not use the traditional multiplication sign with variables as it is too easily confused with an x. 
22 · 35 = 770
22(35) = 770
22 × 35 = 770 
Division 
Use the slash mark (/). Be careful when typing division because the entire expression in the divisor and the entire expression in the dividend must be in parenthesis.
If you are typing only numbers (no variables), you could also use the traditional division sign (÷) made by holding down the ALT key and typing 0247 on the numerical keypad. 
(770) / (35) = 22 (3x + 4) / (7y)
770 ÷ 35 = 22 
Exponents 
Use the superscript feature of your word processor if it has one. Press CTRL + SHIFT + plus sign to turn on superscripts. Press CTRL + spacebar to turn off superscripts.
If you are typing in Outlook Express, you do not have a superscript. In this case, use the caret (^) on the top of the six key. 
3x^{2} + 2x  1 = 0
3x^2 + 2x  1 = 0 
Fractions 
You can type fractions using the slash mark (/) if you are careful with parenthesis.
Or you can type fractional (rational) expressions using three lines of type. 
(x + 2) / (y  1)
x + 2 
Plus or Minus sign 
Hold down the ALT key and type 0177 
± 
Radicals 
Type square roots using sqrt.
Type higher roots using root# (root3 is cube root; root5 is 5th root) 
sqrt(25) = ±5
root3(8) = 2 
Comparison symbols 
Less than (SHIFT comma)
Greater than (SHIFT period)
Less than or equal to (Turn on underline and type a less than symbol)
Greater than or equal to (Turn on underline and type a greater than symbol)
Not Equal to (Type a less than symbol followed immediately by a greater than symbol) 
5 < 8
8 > 5
5 < 8
8 > 5
5 <> 8 
Solve the following quadratic equation:
With exponents and 3line fractions 
With carets and 1line fractions 
2x^{2} +
5x  3
Factor the numerator:
(x + 3) (2x  1)
Cancel the (x + 3) on numerator and denominator:
2x  1 = 0
Add 1 to both sides of the equation:
2x  1 + 1 = 0 + 1
Simplify:
2x = 1
Divide both sides of the equation by 2:
2x 1
Simplify:
1

(2x^2 + 5x  3) / (x + 3) = 0
Factor the numerator:
[(x + 3) (2x  1)] / (x + 3) = 0
Cancel the (x + 3) on numerator and denominator:
2x  1 = 0 Add 1 to both sides of the equation:
2x  1 + 1 = 0 + 1
Simplify:
2x = 1
Divide both sides of the equation by 2:
(2x) / (2) = (1) / (2)
Simplify:
x = (1/2) 
Copyright (c) 2007, Jolene M. Morris, All Rights Reserved