nick007 wrote:

I barely passed Algebra 1 & that's the highest math I took. Are the imaginary numbers the letters in math problems that you have to find a number for

No. Thats not what the term means.

Not a mathematician but I do know that the letters in the algebra equations are called "variables". They stand for whatever kinda numbers are involved in the problem at a hand (which are usually regular old real numbers). Though they could stand for imaginary numbers as well.

Imagine the regular real numbers lined up single file. The positive numbers going to the right from zero (1,2,3,..), and the negative numbers going to left from zero. The "imaginary" numbers are like a second ghost family of numbers going on an axis straight up perpendicular to the line of real numbers (also starting at the zero point) going "square root of negative one", "square root of negative two", and so on. In lower math your taught that negative numbers dont have square roots (if you square either a postive or negative number you get a postive number), and I for one cannot imagine HOW a negative number could HAVE a square root. But in more advanced math they change their minds and teach you that negative numbers actually have do square roots and that these square roots are what are called "imaginary numbers".

A high school teacher, and a book I read as a kid, both mentioned the concept (the book even said that "imaginary numbers are perfectly real"), but what I said above is as far as I got with it.

Imaginary numbers seem to be just that to me (rather imaginary). But a poster above says that imaginary numbers are actually of practical use in electrical engineering, and even explains how. I will have to take his word for it- his explanation is beyond my math ken. Lol!