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Absolute Value

The concept of absolute value has many uses, but you probably won't see anything interesting for a few more classes yet.
There is a technical definition for absolute value, but you could easily never need it. For now, you should view the
absolute value of a number as its distance from zero.

Let's look at the number line:

The absolute value of x, denoted "| x |" (and which is read as "the absolute value of x"), is the distance of x from zero.
This is why absolute value is never negative; absolute value only asks "how far?", not "in which direction?". This means
not only that | 3 | = 3, because 3 is three units to the right of zero, but also that | –3 | = 3, because –3 is three units to the
left of zero.

Warning: The absolute-value notation is bars, not parentheses or brackets. Use the proper notation; the other notations
do not mean the same thing.

It is important to note that the absolute value bars do NOT work in the same way as do parentheses. Whereas –(–3) =
+3, this is NOT how it works for absolute value:

• Simplify –| –3 |.

Given –| –3 |, I first handle the absolute value part, taking the positive and converting the absolute value bars to
parentheses:

–| –3 | = –(+3)

Now I can take the negative through the parentheses:

–| –3 | = –(3) = –3

As this illustrates, if you take the negative of an absolute value, you will get a negative number for your answer.

When typing math as text, such as in an e-mail, the "pipe" character is usually used to indicate absolute values. The
"pipe" is probably a shift-key somewhere north of the "Enter" key on your keyboard. While the "pipe" denoted on the
physical keyboard key may look like a "broken" line, the typed character should display on your screen as a solid vertical
bar. If you cannot locate a "pipe" character, you can use the "abs()" notation instead, so that "the absolute value of
negative 3" would be typed as "abs(–3)".

Here are some more sample simplifications:


• Simplify | –8 |.

| –8 | = 8 Copyright © Elizabeth Stapel 1999-2009 All Rights Reserved

• Simplify | 0 – 6 |.

| 0 – 6 | = | –6 | = 6

• Simplify | 5 – 2 |.

|5–2|=|3|=3

• Simplify | 2 – 5 |.

| 2 – 5 | = | –3 | = 3

• Simplify | 0(–4) |.

| 0(–4) | = | 0 | = 0

Why is the absolute value of zero equal to "0"? Ask yourself: how far is zero from 0? Zero units, right? So | 0 | = 0.

• Simplify | 2 + 3(–4) |.

| 2 + 3(–4) | = | 2 – 12 | = | –10 | = 10

• Simplify –| –4 |.

–| –4| = –(4) = –4

• Simplify –| (–2)2 |.

–| (–2)2 | = –| 4 | = –4

• Simplify –| –2 |2

–| –2 |2 = –(2)2 = –(4) = –4

• Simplify (–| –2 |)2.

(–| –2 |)2 = (–(2))2 = (–2)2 = 4

Sometimes you will be asked to insert an inequality sign between two absolute values, such as:

• Insert the correct inequality: | –4 | _____ | –7 |


Whereas –4 > –7 (because it is further to the right on the number line than is –7), I am dealing here with the
absolute values. Since:

| –4 | = 4

| –7 | = 7,

...and since 4 < 7, then the solution is:

| –4 | < | –7 |.

When the number inside the absolute value (the "argument" of the absolute value) was positive anyway, we didn't change
the sign when we took the absolute value. But when the argument was negative, we did change the sign; namely, we
changed the "understood" "plus" into a "minus". This leads to one fiddly point which may not come up in your homework
now, but will probably show up on tests later:

When you are dealing with variables, you cannot tell the sign of the number or the value that is contained in the variable.
For instance, given the variable x, you cannot tell by looking whether there is, say, a "2" or a "–4" contained inside. If I ask
you for the absolute value of x, what would you do? Since you cannot tell, just by looking at the letter, whether or not the
variable contains a positive or negative value, you would have to consider these two different cases.

If x > 0 (that is, if x is positive), then the value won't change when you take the absolute value. For instance, if x = 2, then
you have | x | = | 2 | = 2 = x. In fact, for any positive value of x (or if x equals zero), the sign would be unchanged, so:

For x > 0, | x | = x

On the other hand, if x < 0 (that is, if x is negative), then it will change its sign when you take the absolute value. For
instance, if x = –4, then | x | = | –4 | = + 4 = –(–4) = –x. In fact, for any negative value of x, the sign would have to be
changed, so:

For x < 0, | x | = –x

This is a case in which the "minus" sign on the variable does not indicate "a number to the left of zero", but "a change of
the sign from whatever the sign originally was". This "–" does not mean "the number is negative" but instead means that
"I've changed the sign on the original value".

• Must –x be negative? Why or why not?

No, it does not have to be negative:


If the original value of x was negative, then –x, the opposite-signed version of x, would have to be positive. For
instance, if I start with x = –3, then –x = –(–3) = +3, which is positive.

You can use the Mathway widget below to practice "Absolute Value Expressions and Equations", subtopic "Simplifying
Absolute Value Expressions". Try the entered exercise, or type in your own exercise. Then click "Answer" to compare
your answer to Mathway's. (Or skip the widget and return to the index.)

Absolute Value Graphs


You have explored the graphs of three important functions: - x² (in the quadratic functions unit), sin x and cos x (in the trigonometry
unit). Now you will examine a few more of the 'basic' functions that you will need to graph, starting with the graph of the absolute value
function.

Absolute Value refers to a number's distance from zero on a numberline. As you can see from the numberline below, both 3 and -3 are
equidistant from zero (they are both 3 units away from zero). Therefore, the absolute value of BOTH 3 and -3 is 3.

Absolute Value is written using two straight parenthesis. For example, to say "The absolute value of 3" you would write |3|. To say "The
absolute value of -3" you would write |-3|.

Example 1

Evaluate |5|.

Solution

This question is asking for the absolute value of 5. Since the number 5 is 5 units away from zero:

|5| = 5

Example 2

Evaluate |-7|.

Solution

What is the absolute value of -7? Since -7 is seven units away from zero:

|-7| = 7

Graphing f(x) = |x|

Now that you know how absolute value works, it is time to graph the basic absolute value function. When you want to graph a function
but are unsure of how that function works, you can always start with a table of values.

Let's graph f(x) = |x| using a table of values:

x -2 -1 0 1 2
|x| 2 1 0 1 2

Let's plot these points on a graph:


These points are going to be connected with straight lines to get the final graph of f(x) = |x|:

This is the basic graph of the absolute value function f(x) = |x|.

Transformation Example

The transformations that you have already seen also apply to the graph of the absolute value function. Specifically, the standard form of
the absolute value function is:

y = a|x - h| + k
where
a is vertical stretch
h is horizontal shift
k is vertical shift
Example

Sketch the graph of f(x) = 2|x - 3| -4

Solution

For this graph we can focus on three important points: (0,0), (-1,1) and (1,1). Start by sketching the basic graph of f(x) = |x| with the
three important points shown:

This is the graph of y = |x|.

Now start by applying the transformations in order:

1. In this example, a is 2. Multiply all the y - coordinates by 2. The important points ((-1,1), (0,0), (1,1)) become (-1,2), (0,0) and (1,2).
The new graph looks as follows:
This is the graph of y = 2|x|.

2. In this example, h is positive 3. (Again, if this does not make sense, refer back to the lesson on graphing quadratic functions for an
explanation of how h works.) This means that every point on this graph should be shifted 3 units to the right. This gives you the
following graph:
This is the graph of y = 2|x - 3|.

3. The last transformation to be performed is k, which is -4 in this example. This means that we have to move all of the points DOWN 4
units. This will give us our final graph:
This is your final graph of y = 2|x - 3| - 4.

Graphing Absolute-Value Functions (page 1 of 2)


Taking the absolute value of a negative number makes it positive. For this reason, graphs of absolute value functions tend
not to look quite like the graphs of linear functions that you've already studied. Because of how absolute values behave, it
is important to include negative inputs in your T-chart when graphing absolute-value functions. If you do not pick x-values
that will put negatives inside the absolute value, you will usually mislead yourself as to what the graph looks like.

For instance, suppose your class is taking the following quiz:

• Graph y =|x+2|

One of the other students does what is commonly done: he picks only positive x-values for his T-chart:
Then he plots his points:

These points are fine, as far as they go, but they aren't enough; they don't give an accurate idea of what the graph
should look like. So the student then draws an erroneous graph:

WRONG ANSWER!
He just flunked the quiz. But you're more careful; you pick x-values that put a negative inside the absolute value,
and you choose quite a few more points:

Then you plot your points: Copyright © Elizabeth Stapel 1999-2009 All Rights Reserved

...and finally you connect your dots:

You have the correct graph:

Right answer!
...and you just passed the quiz!

While absolute-value graphs tend to look like the one above, with an "elbow" in the middle, this is not always the case.
However, if you see a graph with an elbow like this, you should expect that the equation is probably an absolute value. In
all cases, you should take care that you pick a good range ofx-values; three x-values right next to each other will almost
certainly not give you anywhere near enough information to draw a valid picture.
Standard:

Reinforcement of 6.N.13 - Define absolute value and determine the absolute value of
rational numbers (including positive and negative)
Instructional Objective:
Students will be able to graph integers on a number line and find absolute value.
Motivation:
Students will analyze several days of reports from the newspaper that show the high and low
temperatures for cities across the country. In small groups they will be assigned a city in
which they record the rise and fall of the days’ high temperatures on a vertical number line.

Students will then look at the elevations and temperatures of Mt. McKinley and Badwater.
They will observe and contrast the differences between the two elevations and temperatures.
Delivery of Instruction:
The aim and do now will be copied and completed on the black board. Students will then
break into small groups and record the days’ high and low temperatures of their particular
city on a vertical number line. Then, I will ask students to individually compare two integers.
From there, students will analyze a chart of rushed yards on a football team and order these
statistics from least to greatest. Next, I will use the overhead to demonstrate the meaning of
absolute value and stress that it is the distance from zero. I will also demonstrate this
distance by using a piece of string to show that 4 and -4 are the same distance from 0 and a
distance (or the piece of string) can not be negative. Finally, students will individually
evaluate expressions on absolute value and positive and negative integers.
Closure:
I will ask students to think about the following question, does -4 have the same value as 4?
Explain your reasoning.
Extended Practice:
I will provide additional examples for students to practice on the black board. In addition, I
will allow students to use the string in order to fully understand the concept of absolute zero.
Students will also be assigned follow-up homework questions from their textbook in which
they will have to utilize material from the lesson in order to successfully complete the
homework.

Introduction graph absolute value functions


Graphing absolute value functions is nothing but after finding the value of the function we
will make a graph for its absolute value. Here we are going to learn how to graph the absolute value
functions. We already know absolute value of positive or negative number is again a positive number.
So if we graphing the absolute value it will lies on the positive side. if the function is inside the
absolute value we will get a positive graph.
Example for Graph Absolute Value Functions:
Example 1 for graph absolute value functions:
Graph the following functions: y = |x - 1|
Solution:
To graph the function we have to give the value for x. here we are going to take the values -2,
-1, 0, 1, 2 for x.
x = -2 y = |-2 – 1|= |-3| = +3
x = -1 y = |-1 – 1|= |-2| = +2
x = 0 y = |0 – 1|= |-1| = +1
x = +1 y = |1 – 1|= |0| = 0
x = 2 y = |2 – 1|= |1| = +1
Likewise we have to give the value. If we mark these points on the graph we will get the graph
like this.

From this we know how to graph absolute value functions. Wer will see some more
examples for this.
Example2 for Graphing Absolute Value Functions:
Graph the following functions: y = |3- x|
Solution:
To graph the function we have to give the value for x. here we are going to take the values -2,
-1, 0, 1, 2 for x.
x = -2 y = |3 – (-2)|= |5| = +5
x = -2 y = |3 – (-1)|= |4| = +4
x = -2 y = |3 – (0)|= |3| = +3
x = -2 y = |3 – (1)|= |2| = +2
x = -2 y = |3 – (2)|= |1| = +1
Likewise we have to give the value. If we mark these points on the graph we will get the graph
like this.
These are the examples for absolute value functions graphing.

The Graphs of the “Absolute Value” Function with Graphing Calculators


TEACHER WORKSHEET
The aim of this lesson plan is to use handheld graphing technology and multiple
representations to help students visualize the graphs of absolute value functions and make
conjectures about the relationships between the algebraic and graphical forms of absolute value
functions.
Day 1
A discussion about the application of the concept of absolute value in daily life (mentioned in
the Rationale Section) could help students become interested in the lesson.
1. What do you understand from the concept of “absolute value”?
2. What are the effects of absolute value function on any number or function?
3. Are there any differences between the graph of a function and its graph after
absolute value function was applied?
These three questions are designed to determine students’ existing knowledge on absolute
value and the graphs of absolute value functions.
Organize students in pairs for engagement and discussion. Distribute one graphing calculator
to each pair of students.
Make sure that students use the split-screen mode for this activity (half equation-view and
half graph-view by using the Mode button) in order to help them associate the algebraic and the
graphical representations of the absolute value function. The graph of y = ⏐x ⏐ is drawn on the
screen, and this graph is kept on the screen with the aim of further comparisons during the entire
lesson.
STUDENT WORKSHEET
Day 1
1. What do you know about the concept of “absolute value”?
2. What are the effects of the absolute value function on any number or function?
3. Are there any differences between the graph of a function and its graph after the
absolute value function was applied?
4. Guess the graph of y = ⏐-x⏐ by drawing
on the same coordinate system where
y = ⏐x⏐ was drawn on the right-hand side.
5. Draw the graph of y = ⏐-x⏐. What are the
differences between the graphs of
y = ⏐-x⏐ and y = ⏐x⏐?
6. Guess the graph of y = -⏐x⏐ by drawing
on the same coordinate system where
y = ⏐x⏐ was drawn on the right-hand
side.
7. Draw the graph of y = -⏐x⏐ in a different style and without deleting the graph of y = ⏐x⏐. Compare these
two graphs.

Assignment
1. a) Guess the graph of y = -⏐x + 3⏐ + 1 by drawing on the same coordinate system
where y = ⏐x⏐ was drawn (below). Explain your graph and the reasoning behind it.

b) Draw the graphs of y = ⏐x⏐ and y = -⏐x + 3⏐ + 1 in different styles on the same
coordinate system. Compare them. Was your prediction close? Discuss the
similarities and differences between your predictions and calculator-produced
graphs.

2. a) Guess the graph of y = 3⏐x - 2⏐ - 3 by drawing on the same coordinate system


where y = ⏐x⏐ was drawn (below). Explain your graph and the reasoning behind it
b) Draw the graphs of functions y = ⏐x⏐ and y = 3⏐x - 2⏐ - 3 in different styles on
the same coordinate system. Compare them. Was your prediction close?

Discuss the similarities and differences between your predictions and calculator produced graphs