Hi, I am trying to teach myself algebra from a book. It was going fairly smooth and I understandmostof what I have read and practiced. However, I came to a section on quadratic equations whereupon I was presented with a basic form x^2 = 3. It was simple enough to understand that the answer must be either x = 1.73 or -1.73 without any experience with quadratic equations.

Now, the very next paragraph I was presented with this (x - 1)^2 - 4 = 0 and the simple solution that x = 3 or -1. Then my problem begins as the author goes on to say that the equation (x - 1)^2 - 4 can be "simplified" to x^2 - 2x - 3. How is this possible? where does he get 2x? I have checked the numbers and they are ofcourse correct but how has he made this assumption without knowing the value of x? Is there some sort of mathematical trick I have missed out on here?

My level of Math is far from impressive so any advice would be helpful please. I would normally just read or re-read to try to understand but one minute the author is making sense then it's asif he just skips a page and assumes you understand :)