Yes, this is a real algebra question.

I've been tasked with calculating the slope and intercept for the following equation:

total cost = (cost of a computer printer) + (ink cost per page) x (pages printed)

NO SPECIFIC INFORMATION HAS BEEN GIVEN.

I'm thinking that, if this is y = mx + b, then m = about $200 x = 1.2 cents/page (based on a cartridge costing $59.99 with a yield of 5,000 pages - smart, huh?). "b" would be the pages printed over the life of the printer, yes? But I can't find out that information anywhere. So, here are my questions -

a) Am I on track?

No. As S Khan pointed out, you are not being asked to SOLVE the equation for the total cost of the printer, but to FORMULATE a linear equation for the total cost. And they have given you the equation in words. All you need to do is to translate it into math symbols. I know it sounds picky, but it helps to write down what concept each symbol stands for. It keeps you from drifting in your thought.

So y = total cost.

You take it from there. Equate a symbol to every variable relevant to the problem. Then build your equation or formula from those symbols.

b) How can I figure out the number of pages printed over the life of a printer? Well, you would need that (and the price of ink) to SOLVE the equation. As it is, you do not need either to FORMULATE the equation. The purpose of the exercise is to get you used to translating a problem in words into a mathematical form. The resulting equation will work for any type of printer, no matter what its purchase price, its life in pages, or the price of ink catridges. This is the mental economy inherent in math. You create a general analysis that you can use over and over again for different problems of the same kind. You may have overthought this problem. If so, take a trip to Fenway.

If anyone can help me, you guys can! Thanks so much.