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Asymptote

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A line that a curve approaches, as it heads towards infinity:

Types
There are three types: horizontal, vertical and oblique:

it can be in a negative direction,


the curve can approach from any side (such as from above or below for a
horizontal asymptote),

or may actually cross over (possibly many times), and even move away and
back again.
The important point is that:
The distance between the curve and the asymptote tends to zero as
they head to infinity (or infinity)

Horizontal Asymptotes
It is a Horizontal Asymptote when:
as x goes to infinity (or infinity) the curve
approaches some constant value b

Vertical Asymptotes
It is a Vertical Asymptote when:
as x approaches some constant value c (from the left
or right) then the curve goes towards infinity (or

infinity).

Oblique Asymptotes
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It is an Oblique Asymptote when:


as x goes to infinity (or infinity)then the curve goes
towards a liney=mx+b
(note: m is not zero as that is a Horizontal
Asymptote).

Example: (x2-3x)/(2x-2)
The graph of (x2-3x)/(2x-2) has:

A vertical asymptote at x=1

An oblique asymptote: y=x/21

Axis of Symmetry of a Parabola


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The graph of a quadratic function is a parabola. The axis of symmetry of a parabola is a vertical
line that divides the parabola into two congruent halves. The axis of symmetry always passes
through the vertex of the parabola. The x-coordinate of the vertex is the equation of the axis of
symmetry of the parabola.

For a quadratic function in standard form, y = ax2 + bx + c, the axis of symmetry is a vertical
line
Example:
Find the axis of symmetry of the parabola shown.

The x-coordinate of the vertex is the equation of the axis of symmetry of the parabola.
The vertex of the parabola is (2, 1).
So, the axis of symmetry is the line x = 2.

Example:
Find the axis of symmetry of the graph of y = x2 6 x + 5 using the formula.
For a quadratic function in standard form, y = ax2 + bx + c, the axis of symmetry is a vertical
line
Here, a = 1, b = 6, and c = 5.
Substitute.

Simplify.

Therefore, the axis of symmetry is x = 3.

Vertical Asymptotes (page 1 of 4)


Sections: Vertical asymptotes, Horizontal asymptotes, Slant asymptotes, Examples

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Vertical asymptotes are vertical lines which correspond to the zeroes of the denominator of arational
function. (They can also arise in other contexts, such as logarithms, but you'll almost certainly first
encounter asymptotes in the context of rationals.)
Let's consider the following equation:

This is a rational function. More to the point, this is a fraction. Can you have a zero in the denominator of
a fraction? No. So if I set the denominator of the above fraction equal to zero and solve, this will tell me
the values that xcannot be:

x2 5x 6 = 0
(x 6)(x + 1) = 0
x = 6 or 1

So x cannot be

6 or 1, because then I'd be dividing by zero.

Now look at the graph:

You can see how the graph avoided the vertical lines x = 6 and x = 1. This avoidance occurred
because x cannot be 1 or 6. In other words, the fact that the function's domain is restricted is reflected in
the function's graph. More usefully, you can use the domain to help you graph, because whichever values
are not allowed in the domain will be vertical asymptotes on the graph.

You can draw the vertical asymptote as a dashed


line to remind you not to graph there, like this:

Copyright Elizabeth Stapel 2003-2011 All Rights Reserved

(It's alright that the graph appears to climb right up


the sides of the asymptote on the left. This is
common. As long as you don't draw the
graphcrossing the vertical asymptote, you'll be fine.)

Let's review this relationship between the domain and the vertical asymptotes.

Find the domain and vertical asymptotes(s), if any, of the following function:

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The domain is the set of all xvalues that I'm allowed to use.
The only values that could be
disallowed are those that give me
a zero in the denominator. So I'll
set the denominator equal to zero
and solve.

x2 + 2x 8 = 0
(x + 4)(x 2) = 0
x = 4 or x = 2
Since I can't have a zero in the
denominator, then I can't have x =
4 orx = 2 in the domain. This tells me that the vertical asymptotes (which tell me where the
graph can not go) will be at the values x = 4 or x = 2.
domain:
vertical asymptotes:

x = 4, 2

Note that the domain and vertical asymptotes are "opposites". The vertical asymptotes are at
and the domain is everywhere but 4 and 2. This is always true.

4 and 2,

Find the domain and vertical asymptote(s), if any, of the following function:

To find the domain and vertical asymptotes, I'll set the denominator equal to zero and solve. The
solutions will be the values that are not allowed in the domain, and will also be the vertical
asymptotes.

x2 + 9 = 0
x2 = 9
Oops! That doesn't solve! So there are no zeroes in the denominator. Since there are no zeroes
in the denominator, then there are no forbidden x-values, and the domain is "all x". Also, since
there are no values forbidden to the domain, there are no vertical asymptotes.
domain: all x
vertical asymptotes: none
Note again how the domain and vertical asymptotes were "opposites" of each other.

Find the domain and vertical asymptote(s), if any, of the following function:

I'll check the zeroes of the denominator:

x2 + 5x + 6 = 0
(x + 3)(x + 2) = 0
x = 3 or x = 2
Since I can't divide by zero, then I have vertical asymptotes at
domain is all other x-values.

x = 3 and x = 2, and the

domain:
vertical asymptotes:

x = 3 and x = 2

When graphing, remember that vertical asymptotes stand for x-values that are not allowed. Vertical
asymptotes are sacred ground. Never, on pain of death, can you cross a vertical asymptote. Don't even
try!

Finding Horizontal
Asymptotes
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A horizontal asymptote is a y-value on a graph which a function approaches


but does not actually reach. Here is a simple graphical example where the
graphed function approaches, but never quite reaches, y=0. In fact, no
matter how far you zoom out on this graph, it still won't reach zero.
However, I should point out that horizontal asymptotes may only appear in one
direction, and may be crossed at small values of x. They will show up for
large values and show the trend of a function as x goes towards positive or
negative infinity.

To find horizontal asymptotes, we may write the function in the form of


"y=". You can expect to find horizontal asymptotes when you are plotting a
rational function, such as: [Math Processing Error]. Horizontal asymptotes occur
when the graph of the function grows closer and closer to a particular value
without ever actually reaching that value as x gets very positive or very
negative.

To Find Horizontal Asymptotes:


1) Put equation or function in y= form.
2) Multiply out (expand) any factored polynomials in the numerator or
denominator.
3) Remove everything except the terms with the biggest exponents of x found
in the numerator and denominator. These are the "dominant" terms.
Sample A: Find the horizontal asymptotes of:

Remember that horizontal asymptotes appear as x extends to positive or


negative infinity, so we need to figure out what this fraction approaches as x
gets huge. To do that, we'll pick the "dominant" terms in the numerator and
denominator. Dominant terms are those with the largest exponents. As x goes
to infinity, the other terms are essentially meaningless.
The largest exponents in this case are the same in the numerator and
denominator (3). The dominant terms in each have an exponent of 3. Get rid
of the other terms and then simplify by crossing-out the[Math Processing
Error] in the top and bottom:

In this case, 2/3 is the horizontal asymptote of the above function. You
should actually express it as y=2/3. This value is the asymptote because
when we approach x=infinity, the "dominant" terms will dwarf the rest and
the function will always get closer and closer to y=2/3. Here's a graph of
that function as a final illustration that this is correct:

(Notice that there's also a vertical asymptote present in this function.)


If the exponent in the denominator of the function is larger than the exponent in
the numerator, the horizontal asymptote will be y=0, which is the x-axis. As
x approaches positive or negative infinity, that denominator will be much,
much larger than the numerator (infinitely larger, in fact) and will make the
overall fraction equal zero.
If there is a bigger exponent in the numerator of a given function, then there is
NO horizontal asymptote. For example:

There will be NO horizontal asymptote(s) because there is a BIGGER


exponent in the numerator, which is 3. See it? This will make the function
increase forever instead of closely approaching an asymptote. The plot of
this function is below. Note that again there are also vertical
asymptotes present on the graph.

Sample B: Find the horizontal asymptotes of:

In this sample, the function is in factored form. However, we must convert


the function to standard form as indicated in the above steps before Sample A.
That means we have to multiply it out, so that we can observe the dominant
terms.
Sample B, in standard form, looks like this:

Next: Follow the steps from before. We drop everything except the biggest
exponents of x found in the numerator and denominator. After doing so, the
above function becomes:

Cancel [Math Processing Error] in the numerator and denominator and we are
left with 2. Our horizontal asymptote for Sample B is the horizontal line y=2.

Related Lessons:
Asymptotes, Finding Asymptotes, Graphing Rational Functions, Rational Functions

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Horizontal Asymptotes (page 2 of 4)

Sections: Vertical asymptotes, Horizontal asymptotes, Slant asymptotes,


Examples

Whereas vertical asymptotes are sacred ground, horizontal asymptotes are


just useful suggestions. Whereas you can never touch a vertical asymptote,
you can (and often do) touch and even cross horizontal asymptotes.
Whereas vertical asymptotes indicate very specific behavior (on the graph),
usually close to the origin, horizontal asymptotes indicate general behavior
far off to the sides of the graph. To get the idea of horizontal asymptotes,
let's looks at some simple examples.
Find the horizontal asymptote of the following function:

The horizontal asymptote tells me, roughly, where the graph will go when x
is really, really big. So I'll look at some very big values for x, some values of
x very far from the origin:x
100 000

0.0000099...

10 000

0.0000999...

1 000

0.0009979...

100 0.0097990...
10

0.0792079...

0.5

1.5

10

0.1188118...

100

0.0101989...

1 000 0.0010019...
10 000

0.0001000...

100 000

0.0000100...

Off to the sides of the graph, where x is strongly negative (such as 1,000)
or strongly positive (such as 10000), the "+2" and the "+1" in the
expression for y really don't matter so much. I ended up having a really big
number divided by a really big number squared, which "simplified" to be a
very small number. The y-value came mostly from the "x" and the "x2". And
since the x2 was "bigger" than the x, the x2 dragged the whole fraction
down to y = 0 (that is, the x-axis) when x got big.

I can see this behavior on the graph:

The graph shows some slightly interesting behavior in the middle, near the
origin, but the rest of the graph is fairly boring, trailing along the x-axis.

If I zoom in on the origin, I can also see that the graph crosses the
horizontal asymptote (at the arrow): Copyright Elizabeth Stapel 20032011 All Rights Reserved

(It is common and perfectly okay to cross a horizontal asymptote. It's the
vertical asymptotes that I'm not allowed to touch.)

As I can see in the table of values and the graph, the horizontal asymptote is
the x-axis.

horizontal asymptote: y = 0 (the x-axis)

In the above exercise, the degree on the denominator (namely, 2) was


bigger than the degree on the numerator (namely, 1), and the horizontal
asymptote was y = 0 (the x-axis). This property is always true: If the
degree on x in the denominator is larger than the degree on x in the
numerator, then the denominator, being "stronger", pulls the fraction down
to the x-axis when x gets big. That is, if the polynomial in the denominator
has a bigger leading exponent than the polynomial in the numerator, then
the graph trails along the x-axis at the far right and the far left of the graph.

What happens if the degrees are the same in the numerator and
denominator?
Find the horizontal asymptote of the following:

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Unlike the previous example, this function has degree-2 polynomials top and
bottom; in particular, the degrees are the same in the numerator and the
denominator. Since the degrees are the same, the numerator and
denominator "pull" evenly; this graph should not drag down to the x-axis,
nor should it shoot off to infinity. But where will it go?

Again, I need to think in terms of big values for x. When x is really big, I'll
have, roughly, twice something big (minus an eleven) divided by once
something big (plus a nine). As you might guess from the last exercise, the
"11" and the "+9" won't matter much for really big values of x. Far off to
the sides of the graph, I'll roughly have "2x2/x2", which reduces to just 2.
Does a table of values bear this out? Let's check:x
100 000

1.9999999...

10 000

1.9999997...

1 000

1.9999710...

100 1.9971026...
10

1.7339449...

0.9

1.2222222...

0.9

10

1.7339449...

100

1.9971026...

1 000 1.9999710...
10 000

1.9999997...

100 000

1.9999999...

For big values of x, the graph is, as expected, very close to y = 2.

The graph reflects this:

Then my answer is: horizontal asymptote: y = 2

In the example above, the degrees on the numerator and denominator were
the same, and the horizontal asymptote turned out to be the horizontal line
whose y-value was equal to the value found by dividing the leading
coefficients of the two polynomials. This is always true: When the degrees of
the numerator and the denominator are the same, then the horizontal
asymptote is found by dividing the leading terms, so the asymptote is given
by:

y = (numerator's leading coefficient) / (denominator's leading coefficient)