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The difference of squares formula is one of the primary algebraic formulas used to expand a term in the form of $({a}^{2}-{b}^{2})$ . Basically, it is an algebraic form of an expression used to equate the differences between two square values. The formula helps make a complex equation into a simple one.

Any polynomial that can be written as ${a}^{2}-{b}^{2}$ can be factored as the difference of a square.

$\left({a}^{2}-{b}^{2}\right)=\left(a+b\right)\left(a-b\right)$

The reason is that when you use FOIL to expand the right side, the ab terms cancel out as follows:

$\left(a+b\right)\left(a-b\right)={a}^{2}-ab+ab-{b}^{2}={a}^{2}-{b}^{2}$

**Example 1**

Take the equation ${12}^{2}-{8}^{2}$

Using the difference of squares formula,

${a}^{2}-{b}^{2}=\left(a+b\right)\left(a-b\right)$

where

$a=12$

$b=8$

To calculate the left hand side (LHS),

${a}^{2}-{b}^{2}$

$={12}^{2}-{8}^{2}$

$=144-64$

$=80$

To calculate the right hand side (RHS),

$(a+b)(a-b)$

$=(12+8)(12-8)$

$=\left(20\right)\left(4\right)$

$=80$

$\mathrm{RHS}=\mathrm{LHS}$

This demonstrates that the formula works correctly.

**Example 2**

What is the value of $10{2}^{}-4{2}^{}$ ?

The formula for the difference of squares is:

${a}^{2}-{b}^{2}=\left(a+b\right)\left(a-b\right)$

Therefore, from the given expression,

$a=10$

$b=4$

${a}^{2}-{b}^{2}\to {10}^{2}-{4}^{2}$

$=\left(10+4\right)\left(10-4\right)$

$=\left(14\right)\left(6\right)$

$=84$

We can double check that this is correct by performing the calculations on the original problem.

${10}^{2}-{4}^{2}$

$=100-16$

$=84$

And we've simplified the problem correctly again.

Frequently in algebra problems, the point of the difference of squares identity is to factor the statement, not to find the value of an expression as in the previous example. This can be done with variables, which you will usually find in algebraic problems.

**Example 3**

Factor, if possible.

${x}^{2}-49$

This is a difference of squares where $a=x$ and $b=7$

${x}^{2}-{7}^{2}=\left(x-7\right)\left(x+7\right)$

**Example 4**

Factor, if possible.

$16{p}^{2}-64{q}^{2}$

This is a difference of squares where $a=4p$ and $b=8q$ .

$16{p}^{2}-64{q}^{2}=\left(4p-8q\right)\left(4p+8q\right)$

We can be confident that these examples are factored correctly because of the first example where we solved the entire problem, making sure that the formula works properly.

- The difference of squares has a geometric interpretation. When you draw a square with sides of "a" length, you can "cut out" a square from one of the corners of that square with sides of "b" length. Then you can take the rectangle that's left from the "b" cutout, turn it 90 degrees, and connect it to the "a" rectangle. You now have a rectangle with side lengths $(a+b)$ and $(a-b)$ .
- The difference of squares is helpful in solving certain algebraic equations. One of these is the quadratic equation in the form ${x}^{2}-{c}^{2}=0$ , where ${x}^{2}$ and ${c}^{2}$ are perfect squares. Using the difference of squares, we can rewrite the equation as $\left(x+c\right)\left(x-c\right)=0$ , which allows us to find the solutions $x=c$ and $x=-c$ easily.
- The difference of squares has applications in number theory, as well. For example, it can help to prove that every odd integer can be expressed as the difference between two squares. For example, the odd integer 7 can be written as ${4}^{2}-{3}^{2}=16-9=7$ . Similarly, the odd integer 9 can be written as ${5}^{2}-{4}^{2}=25-16=9$ .

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Tutoring is an excellent way for your student to learn about the difference of squares. A tutor can supplement in-class teaching by providing continuous, in-the-moment feedback so your student doesn't allow bad habits to take root. Your student's tutor can also help them learn the ways in which they learn best and customize lessons based on that learning style. Not only can that help your student learn about the difference of squares, but it can help them in future studies. A tutor can break down the complex processes involved in solving difference of squares problems into simple steps that they can then follow each time they run across similar problems. Working side by side as your student completes their homework problems, their tutor is available to answer any questions that come up right away and help keep your student on task with their work. As they learn about the difference of squares, your student can also learn independent learning skills and time management from their tutor.

If you'd like to learn more about how tutoring can benefit your student, contact the Educational Directors at Varsity Tutors today. We'll get you connected with a suitable tutor to help your student understand the difference of squares.

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