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-5y+4y-18-y

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Jennifer,

  Think of the y's as apples and the 18 as oranges.  Just add up each kind of fruit:

-5y+4y-1y  =  -2y

-18 = -18

so the answer is -2y -18

or in terms of fruit:  -2 apples and -18 oranges  ( and yes minus fruit is an abstract concept)

Now I suspect the problem may actually have been stated as:   

-5y+4y-18-y  = 0  (check the source of the problem).  This is solved as follows:

-5y+4y-18-y = 0

-2y -18 = 0

add +18 to each side and get:

-2y = +18 

Divide both sides by -2 to get:

y = +18 / (-2)  

or  y= -9

Does that help?    Good Luck, BruceS