Here are the unknowns, are the coefficients of thesystem, and are the constant terms.Often the coefficients and unknowns are real or complex numbers, but integers and rationalnumbers are also seen, as are polynomials and elements of an abstract algebraic structure.
One extremely helpful view is that each unknown is a weight for a column vector in a linearcombination.This allows all the language and theory of
(or more generally,
) to bebrought to bear. For example, the collection of all possible linear combinations of the vectors onthe left-hand side is called their
, and the equations have a solution just when the right-handvector is within that span. If every vector within that span has exactly one expression as a linearcombination of the given left-hand vectors, then any solution is unique. In any event, the span hasa
of linearly independent vectors that do guarantee exactly one expression; and the numberof vectors in that basis (its
) cannot be larger than
, but it can be smaller. This isimportant because if we have
independent vectors a solution is guaranteed regardless of theright-hand side, and otherwise not guaranteed.
The vector equation is equivalent to a matrix equation of the formWhere
is a column vector with
is a column vectorwith
entries.The number of vectors in a basis for the span is now expressed as the
of the matrix.