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Lecture 3: Graphing Linear Equations

Last week, we discussed a bit more about linear equations and how to simplify equations with the variable on both sides, and also we discussed how to set up an algebraic equation from a word description.

This week, we expand again upon some of those ideas and start to discuss how to find solutions to linear equations of more than one variable. In your textbook reading this week, you see that there is a correspondence between the ordered pairs and graphs of section 1.3 and the solution of linear equations of two variables, as in section 4.1.

The key idea this week is that there are several ordered pairs that satisfy any linear equation of the form ax + by = c, where a, b, and c are constants and x and y are the variables. In fact, if we allow x and y to belong to the set of all real numbers, there are an infinite number of ordered pairs that satisfy the equation. When we look at all of these ordered pairs visually, it will look like a straight line, hence the word “linear” equation.

The method by which the equation solutions can be visualized is by plotting the ordered pairs on the Cartesian coordinate system. For those of you unfamiliar with this system, recall the old game “Battleship”, where the players kept calling out points on the grid like G-4, or C-5. These pairs represent a point on the map, with the alphabetic character representing a particular row of points, and the number representing a column in that row. The Cartesian coordinate system similarly represents a map of the ordered pairs, with a pair (x,y) representing a point that is x units away horizontally and y units away vertically from the origin, which is the point (0,0). The ability to represent the solutions to linear equations and inequalities in this way is of great help in the solutions of many problems, as the next few examples will show.

The minimum amount of information needed to create a graph of a straight line is two ordered pairs. For example, take the ordered pairs (4,7) and (3,4). When these points are placed on the Cartesian coordinate system, one can draw the line that passes through both points. But what is the associated equation?

Slope The first thing we can do is determine the slope of the line, which is defined as the vertical (north-south) distance between the two points (the “rise”) divided by the horizontal (east-west) distance between the points (the “run). It is most often represented by the variable m and for the ordered pairs (X 1 ,Y 1 ) and (X 2 ,Y 2 ), the equation for the slope is:

m =

y

2

y

1

x

2

x

1

The slope of the line defines its steepness on the graph. Once it is known, it can be used to generate the various equations for lines as are described below.

There are two special cases of slope as described in section 4.2 of the text. If Y 2 - Y 1 = 0, the slope is zero, and thus the line is all run and no rise. This is a horizontal line. Conversely, if X 2 - X 1 = 0, the slope is infinite (undefined), and thus is all rise and no run. This is a vertical line.

Example 1—Slope of line through (3,4) and (4,7) Before we move onto the equations, we can figure out the slope of our line through the ordered pairs (3,4) and (4,7). In this case, Y 2 = 7 and Y 1 = 4, while X 2 = 4 and X 1 = 3. Thus:

m =

7

4

3

=

4

3 m = 3

1

= 3

Thus, the slope of the line is 3.

Equations of lines Once we know the slope of a line and at least one point, we can write an equation for it in terms of x and y. The first of these is the point- slope form of a line.

If you know the slope and at least one ordered pair that belongs to that line (for example, let’s use (3,4) from our previous example), we can use an arbitrary point on the line represented by x and y, or (x,y) and solve the slope equation for y to get the slope. This is done in section 4.5 of the text and is repeated here with our known ordered pair (X 1 ,Y 1 ) = (3,4). If we use Y 2 = Y and X 2 = X in the slope equation, we get:

m =

y 4

x 3

To solve for Y, start by multiplying both sides by (x - 3):

y − 4 m x ⋅ ( − 3 = ) x − 3
y − 4
m x
⋅ (
− 3 =
)
x − 3
Thus, the slope of the line is 3. Equations of lines Once we know the slope

( x 3)

m ( x 3) = y 4

y 4 = m ( x 3)

Finally, substitute the previously-calculated slope, m=3:

y 4 = 3( x 3)

This is the point-slope equation of our line. It should be used when one knows the slope of a line and one ordered pair through which the line passes, or when one knows two ordered pairs, as is our case. Note that

we started by calculating the slope m, then picked an arbitrary point (X,Y) on the line and solved the slope equation for Y to arrive at this form.

The general form of the point-slope equation is:

y y = m ( x x )

1

1

Where the subscript 1 refers to the ordered pair (X 1 ,Y 1 ) that we knew in advance, (3,4).

The second form of an equation for a line is called the slope-intercept form. It is the equation we can derive if we know the slope of a line and its y-intercept, which is the point at which the line crosses the y- axis (the point where x = 0). In this case, rather than starting with just any ordered pair on the line and its slope, we need to start with the y-intercept, which is the ordered pair (0,b).

If we solve the slope equation with an arbitrary point on the line (X,Y) and the y-intercept (0,b), we get the following when we solve for y:

Multiply both sides by X:

Now add b to both sides:

y b − y b − m = = x − 0 x y − b
y b
y b
m =
=
x
− 0
x
y
− b
m ⋅ x =
⋅ x
x
y − b = mx
y − b ( + b ) = mx ( + b ) y = mx
y − b ( + b ) = mx ( + b )
y = mx + b

This is the general form of the slope-intercept equation for a line.

Unfortunately, we do not know the intercept for the line from example 1 that passes through (3,4) and (4,7). However, by simply reducing the point-slope form of that line, we can get the y-intercept:

y 4 = 3( x 3)

Distribute 3 on the right side of the equation:

y 4 = (3 x 3 3)

y 4 = 3 x 9

Finally, add 4 to both sides:

y − b ( + b ) = mx ( + b ) y = mx

y 4

y − b ( + b ) = mx ( + b ) y = mx

( + 4 ) = 3 x 9 ( +4)

y = 3 x 5

Thus, the line that passes through (3,4) and (4,7) also passes through (0,-5) and thus the y-intercept (b) is equal to –5.

Example 2— Demand vs. Price Suppose you did some market research for a new widget you are selling. The data suggests that the number of people out of 100 that would buy the widget decreases by 20 for every 50-dollar increase in price, with a demand of 79 out of 100 at a price of 100 dollars. You wish to present this data in your internal marketing report, so what is the equation of the line if X is the widget price and Y is the associated demand, measured in number of buyers per 100 people?

First, we calculate the slope, which is, as we recall, rise in Y divided by run in X. We are given that for every increase of 50 in X, Y drops by 20 out of 100. Thus, the slope is:

20

2

m =

=

50

5

 

2

m =

 

5

So the slope is –2/5. Now, since 79 buyers are interested in the widget at the 100 dollar price range, we have an ordered pair on the line, (X 1 ,Y 1 ) = (100,79). We can now use the point-slope form to create an equation. With m=-2/5, we get:

y y = m ( x x )

1

1

y

79

2

= x

5

( 100)

We can then reduce it to the slope-intercept form:

y

79

(

=

2

5

(

x

  • 2 )
    5

1

0 )

0

y

79

2

= x +

5

200

5

y

79

2

= x +

5

40

First, we calculate the slope, which is, as we recall, rise in Y divided by run

y 79

First, we calculate the slope, which is, as we recall, rise in Y divided by run

( + 79 )

2

= x +

5

40 (

+

79)

2

y = x + 119

5

Which means that the y-intercept is 119. This brings up an interesting question…since the y-intercept is the point at which X = 0 and X is price in this example, and demand Y is measured in interested buyers per 100 people, how can 119 out of 100 people want a product at zero dollars?

Graphing Linear Equations As stated at the beginning of the lecture, the graph of a line is the visualization of the infinite solutions to the equation of the form aX +bY=c. It was also mentioned that all we need to know in order to graph a line are two ordered pairs that fall on the line. Once these points are placed in the Cartesian coordinate system, one can draw the line through them.

But how do we get the two points? If we have the point-slope form, we know that one point that falls on the line is embedded in the equation, given by (X 1 ,Y 1 ). Another ordered pair can be found by substituting an arbitrary value for X and solving for Y. Similarly, if we have the slope- intercept form, we already know that one ordered pair is (0,b), where b is the y-intercept. Another ordered pair can again be found by substituting an arbitrary value of X into the equation and solving for Y.

Example 3—Graph of Y-2 = 2(x-5) We already know from looking at the equation that one ordered pair on the line is (5,2) by comparing with the general point-slope form. The other point necessary for graphing will come from the solution to the equation with, for example X=2:

y 2 = 2( x 5)

Substituting X=2 gives:

y

2

= 2( 2 5)

y

2 =

( 2 2 2 5)

y 2 = ( 4 10)

y 2 = 6

y 2 ( +2) = 6 ( +2)

y = 4

Thus, the ordered pairs we need are (5,2) and (2,-4). The plot of this equation appears below:

y − 2 = 2( 2 − 5) y − 2 = ( 2 ⋅ 2

Example 4—Linear inequalities of more than one variable The graph of a linear inequality is slightly different from that of a line. This is because the solution lies in the infinite area underneath (for less than) or above (for greater than) the line defined by the inequality if the inequality symbol were replaced by an equals sign.

As an example, the minimum clock period we can apply to a circuit element called a flip-flop must be greater than the propagation delay through the circuit. Without going into too much detail, we represent the clock period with Y and set up the following inequality:

y > 0.69 x + 1.5

Where x is the propagation delay. We can create a graph for this inequality of the type shown in section 4.6 of the text. The line defining the boundary is y = 0.69x + 1.5, and the inequality suggests that all values above this line are solutions to the inequality. Physically, this means that only those values of X that create ordered pairs in the area above the curve have a low enough propagation delay short enough to allow a clock period given by the value of Y in the ordered pair.

For example, if X=5, as in the plot at the top of the next page, note that a period of 3 falls below the curve and thus (5,3) does not solve the inequality. By contrast, a period of 6 falls above the curve and thus (5,6) solves the inequality, so a period of 6 allows enough time for the data to propagate through the flip-flop. Note that the boundary line is dashed, indicating that it is not part of the solution, but everything in the shaded area (indicated by the parallel lines) solves the inequality.

In summary, we covered a few examples of how equations for lines are derived, and how

In summary, we covered a few examples of how equations for lines are derived, and how one can use graphs on the Cartesian coordinate system to visualize the infinite number of solutions to these equations. We also saw an example of a linear inequality and how it can also be graphed. These methods are quite useful in finding the solution to systems of linear equations and inequalities, which will be covered next week.