Variable (Mathematics)


In mathematics, a variable is a symbol or letter, such as “x” or “y”, that represents an unknown number or value in an equation or function. It is called a “variable” because its value may vary or change. Variables are fundamental in the study of mathematics because they facilitate the formulation and solution of mathematical models and problems.


The phonetic pronunciation of the word “Variable” in “Variable (Mathematics)” is /ˈvɛəriəbəl/.

Key Takeaways

Sure, here are three main takeaways about variables in mathematics:

1. Representation of Unknown Values: In mathematics, a variable is a symbol used to represent an unspecified or ‘unknown’ value. The common symbols used are simple letters from the alphabet, like x, y, or z. However, a variable could be represented by any symbol or character. Variables are fundamental to the operation of equations and functions.

2. Distinction between Independent and Dependent Variables: Variables could be categorized into independent and dependent variables. An independent variable is a variable that can be freely manipulated without considering any other variable. On the other hand, a dependent variable is influenced by the changes in the independent variable(s). In other words, its value ‘depends’ on the values of the other variable(s).

3. Locus in Various Fields: Variables are not only restricted to mathematics. They also have applications in other fields such as sciences, computer programming, etc. For instance, in programming, a variable might represent a location in memory where you can store data. In sciences, a variable might stand for a quantity that can change or can be manipulated.


A variable is a fundamental concept in both mathematics and technology because it represents an unknown quantity or a value that can change. In computer programming, variables serve as symbolic names for values in the system’s memory and can be used to hold, retrieve or manipulate data, making it crucial in executing complex algorithms and functions.

Furthermore, variables play an essential role in mathematical modeling, allowing us to describe and solve real-world problems. Therefore, understanding the concept of variables is necessary for mathematical problem-solving and developing effective software or digital systems.


Variables, in the context of mathematics, exhibit two significant purposes: representation and manipulation. Variables are generally used as placeholders within mathematical formulas or equations to represent any potential numeric value. This representation assists mathematicians in generalizing rules and procedures, allowing a mathematical expression to be defined without confining it to specific numeric values.

Variables are helpful in defining problems, relations, or situations in numerous fields such as science, engineering, and statistics where the exact numbers may not be known, but the relation between them is significant.On the other hand, the manipulation purpose refers to the fact that variables allow us to execute functional operations or transformations that would be impossible or unwieldy to perform on static numerical constants.

By manipulating variables in a system of equations, for example, math practitioners can algebraically solve for unknown quantities. They can rearrange and optimize formulas to make them as simple or as efficient as possible. This functionality of variables is essential in mathematical modeling and in solving complex real-world problems.


1. Budgeting: In day-to-day personal finance, variables might include monthly income and expenditures. For instance, each month you might receive a different amount of income or spend varying amounts on things like groceries, utilities, rent, or entertainment. Each of these categories is a variable that impacts the overall budget.

2. Climate Studies: In climate and weather studies, variables could include temperature, humidity, wind speed, and precipitation. These variables can change minute to minute, day to day, and impact our weather patterns. For example, meteorologists use these variables to predict weather forecasts.

3. Ecommerce Pricing: In Pricing strategies for online businesses, variables can range from cost of goods, shipping charges, competitor’s pricing to customers’ purchasing habits. For example, the price of a product on an e-commerce website can be a variable that changes based on these influencing factors.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Q: What is a variable in mathematics?

A: A variable in mathematics is a symbol or letter, such as “x” or “y,” that represents an unknown number.

Q: What are the types of variables in mathematics?

A: The types include independent variables, dependent variables, and dummy variables.

Q: What is the use of variables in mathematics?

A: Variables are used to represent unknown quantities, enabling the formulation and solving of algebraic equations.

Q: What is an example of a variable in an equation?

A: In the equation x + 3 = 7, “x” is the variable. We can solve for the variable to find x = 7 – 3, or x = 4.

Q: What is the difference between a constant and a variable?

A: A constant is a value that does not change, whereas a variable can take on different values.

Q: What is the relation between variables and algebraic expressions?

A: In algebraic expressions, variables combined with numerical constants and arithmetic operations represent a variety of mathematical relationships.

Q: What do we mean by the term ‘solving for a variable’?

A: ‘Solving for a variable’ means manipulating the equation to find the value of that variable.

Q: Can a variable represent more than one number?

A: In a specific equation, a variable typically represents a single number. However, the same variable can represent different numbers in different equations.

Q: Can a variable represent a fraction or decimal?

A: Yes, a variable can represent any number, including fractions and decimals.

Q: What is a multivariable equation?

A: A multivariable equation is one that contains more than one variable. For instance, the equation 2x + 3y = 6 is a multivariable equation because it contains the variables x and y.

Related Tech Terms

  • Constant
  • Function
  • Coefficient
  • Equation
  • Algebraic Expression

Sources for More Information

Table of Contents