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Solving

Quadratic
Inequalities

Graphical Solution of Quadratic


Inequalities
You already know that the graph of
the equation
y=ax2+bx+c
is a parabola. You also know that the
x-intercepts of this parabola are
exactly the roots of the associated
quadratic equation ax2+bx+c = 0.
These are the x-coordinates of the
point(s) where the parabola
y=ax2+bx+c intersects the line y=0,
that is, the x-axis.

Suppose you want to solve the


quadratic inequality
ax2+bx+c 0
Then this is the same as asking
yourself: For what values of x will the
parabola y=ax2+bx+c lie below the
line y=0 (the x-axis)?

Example
Suppose you want to solve this
quadratic inequality.
x2-2x-3 0
If you sketch the graph of the
associated parabola y = x2-2x-3, you
will get something like this:

Where does the parabola intersect the xaxis? For what values of x does thee parabola
lie below the x-axis? It is clear that the graph
is below the x=axis on the interval between
the two roots of the quadratic equation.
Hence, the inequality x2-2x-3 0 is satisfied
when x is in the interval (-1, 3).
Next consider the inequality x2-2x-3 0.
The solution consists of all values of x for
which the parabola y = x2-2x-3 is either on
the x-axis or above it, since the inequality
involves a greater than or equal to relation.
Examine the parabola above and determine
these values. You will see that the parabola is
above the x-axis to the left of x=-1 and to the
right of x=3, and intersect the x-axis at x=-1
and x=3. This shows that the solution to this
inequality consists of all values satisfying x-1

Our example illustrate the following


procedure for solving quadratic inequalities:
to obtain the graphical solution to a
quadratic inequality, do the following:
1. Write the inequality in one of the following
forms:
ax2+bx+c 0
ax2+bx+c 0
ax2+bx+c 0
ax2+bx+c 0
2. Find the roots of the associated quadratic
equation ax2+bx+c = 0 say x1 and x2, where
x1x2.
3. Sketch the graph of the parabola y =
ax2+bx+c. Use the graph to determine on
which of the following intervals the graph
will be above or below the x-axis: xx1,

Procedure for Solving Quadratic Inequalities


To solve a quadratic, do the following:
1. Rewrite the inequality such that the lefthand side takes the form ax2+bx+c and the
right-hand side is zero.
2. Solve for the roots of the associated
quadratic equation ax2+bx+c=0. Denote
the roots by x1 and x2.
3. Rewrite the left-hand side of the
inequality in the form a(x-x1)(x-x2).
4. Subdivide the real line into subintervals
using the roots obtained in (b) as division
points. In each interval, determine the sign
of a(x-x1)(x-x2) by considering the signs of
the factors.
5. The solution set consists of the intervals
that give the appropriate sign for a(x-x1)(x-