*This post is part of a series that’s a work in progress. This is the first post, which is an introduction to the idea of Algebras and how they’re used in Software Development.*

The **Algebra** we all know and love is usually defined as *the study of mathematical symbols and the rules for manipulating these symbols*. That sounds very pretty and all, but for all of my school years, whenever I heard the word **Algebra** I thought of variables. You know, *x, y and z*. With the description in mind though, it all fits really well together. Look at the following, paying close attention to how it reflects the definition given above:

`x + x = 2x`

Right?

It is defining how the `+`

works. And by doing that, it’s also defining how **addition** works and which rules apply to it. So, here’s another one:

`x + (y + z) = (x + y) + z`

Since that is true for addition, regardless of what values `x, y and z`

have, we say that addition is **Associative**. And associativity is a **law** that needs to be fulfilled whenever we’re adding stuff up. And you know what really tries to follow math a lot? Software. Here are some software examples of operations which are associative:

`// In JS:`

// Addition of numbers is associative

1 + (2 + 3) === (1 + 2) + 3 // true

// Multiplication is as well

1 * (2 * 3) === (1 * 2) * 3 // true

// String concatenation also works

“All” ++ (“ work and” ++ “ no play”) === (“All” ++ “ work and”) ++ “ no play”) // true

// Array.prototype.concat also fulfils this.

concat([1, 2, 3], concat([4, 5], [6])) === concat(concat([1, 2, 3], [4, 5]), [6]) // true

That’s pretty cool. But we can keep going and look for more laws to fulfil. There’s another useful one which is called **Identity**. An operation fulfils this law if there is a value such that it turns into the **Identity Function**.

As a refresher, here’s the identity function: `const id = x => x`

.

And here are the identities for the operation above:

// Addition -> 0

x + 0 === x

// Multiplication -> 1

x * 1 = x

// String concatenation -> “” (empty string)

“Hello World!” ++ “” === “Hello World!”

// Array.prototype.concat -> [] (empty array)

concat([1, 2, 3], []) === [1, 2, 3]

/*

Ok, that one’s false, but that’s just JS being crazy, ok? The result will still be [1, 2, 3]

*/

Hail all the maths.

## So… why should we care?

I went a bunch of years not really paying attention to any of this and did “fine”. But I could’ve done much better. And that’s the thing, this is not required knowledge for a career in Software Development, but it is something that will make you reason about your code a bit different. When used correctly, it can give you **certainty**. Just like we never question that `1 + 1 = 2`

, we could have code that follows laws that assure us certain things will always happen. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

*BTW: the operations we described above are Monoids, one of the weird terms that Functional Programming people keep throwing around. Come back tomorrow for more Monoid fun 🎉*