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Finding a Second Degree Equation from Its Solutions

This post about finding a second degree equation from its solutions is part of a series of posts to help you prepare for the Advanced Algebra and Functions part of the Accuplacer test.

Question

x = 4 is the only solution to one of the equations below.

Which one?

A. 

B. 

C. 

D. 


Solution

Note

For solving equations, the terms “root,” “solution,” “zero,” and “x-intercept” all mean pretty much the same thing, an answer to the problem. “Zero” and “x-intercept” come from the way equations are usually graphed for a problem: The equation is set equal to zero and then solved for the x-value that makes it all equal zero. On a graph, that x-value is an x-intercept.

Back to the Question

The factor theorem says that if   is a solution to , then  must be a factor of . For example, if is a solution,  must be a factor of .

For which of the answer choices is  a factor? Choices B and D. What’s the right answer?

The other clue in the question is that  is the only solution. The factor theorem says also that if  is a factor of , then c must be a solution to . Note that the equation in answer choice D also contains another factor: . If   is a factor, then -4 is a solution. That would make  a second solution — but the question says there can be only one, so D cannot be the correct answer.

That means the correct answer is choice B.

Related: “Solving a Quadratic” and “How Can You Find a Quadratic’s Equation from Its Graph?”

The Accuplacer sample problem on which this one is based is #12 in the sample questions for the Accuplacer Advanced Algebra and Functions test.

 

How Can You Find a Quadratic’s Equation from Its Graph?

Question

This post about how to find a quadratic function’s equation from its graph is part of a series of posts to help you prepare for the Advanced Algebra and Functions part of the Accuplacer test.

y=g(x). This parabola has x-intercepts at x=-1 and x=3, y-intercept at y=-3, and vertex at (0, -4).

This graph represents a polynomial function . Which of the following could be g‘s equation?


Solution

What can you tell from the graph?

You can read the coordinates of the x-intercepts, the y-intercept, and the turning point.

  x-intercepts   (-1, 0), (3, 0)  
  y-intercept   (0, -3)  
  turning point   (1, -4)  

The x-intercepts are clues to g‘s factors: The x-intercept (-1, 0) tells you that is a zero, and the x-intercept (3, 0) tells you that is a factor.

Sidebar: The factor theorem says that a polynomial that has a polynomial has a factor has a root at c, and a polynomial that has a root at c has a factor . A root is the x-value at the x-intercept: for this example, -1 and 3. So the factors are and .

Multiply those factors together and see what you get:

The graph looks like a parabola, a second-degree curve. And is second degree. So you may be done. How can you check? Use one of the two other points you can read from the graph. The y-intercept is (0, -3). Plug in 0 for x and see if the equation gives you -3, the y-intercept.

If

then

And as we saw from the graph, the y-intercept is (0, -3). Check. So answer choice #1 is the correct one.

That is one way to find a quadratic function’s equation from its graph.

Alternatively, since this question is multiple choice, you could try each answer choice. The easiest way to do that, I think, is to substitute 0 for and see if you get that \inline \fn_phv g\left ( 0 \right )=-3, the y-intercept:

  1. .  Then . This is the answer we found. It works.
  2. . Not this one.
  3. .  Looks like this works.
  4. . Does not work.

So we have two contenders, answer choice #1 and answer choice #3. That means we have to try at least one more point besides the y-intercept. We have already done that for answer choice #1; we know the x-intercepts work for it. Let’s see if  at  for answer choice #3, .

So answer choice #3 does not work after all, and answer choice #1 is the correct one.

Related: “Finding a Second Degree Equation from Its Solutions.”

For more about the end behavior of polynomial functions, see “End Behavior, Degree, and Leading Coefficient.”

The Accuplacer sample problem on which this one is based is #10 in the sample questions for the Accuplacer Advanced Algebra and Functions test.

Solving a Quadratic

Question

This post about solving quadratic equations is part of a series of posts to help you prepare for the Advanced Algebra and Functions part of the Accuplacer test.

Find the values of x that satisfy this equation:


Solution

It’s a quadratic. That means the first step to solving it is to get everything on the left-hand side, leaving 0 on the right. In this case, that means that you subtract 5 from each side:

Now see if you can solve this quadratic by factoring: Look for two numbers that multiply to -15 and add up to 2. 5 and -3 fit the bill. So one factor is  and one is . Then

And we said

So

Two things multiplied together can equal 0 only when at least one of those things equals 0. So to find solutions to (+ 5)(– 3) = 0, set x + 5 equal to 0 and set x – 3 equal to 0. Then the factor theorem says that a polynomial that has a factor has a root at c, and a polynomial that has a root at c has a factor :

     
     

So two values of x satisfy the equation: x=-5, 3. To check this answer, substitute these values for x into the equation. If you get a true equation, your answer is correct.

The Accuplacer sample question to which this question is similar is multiple choice. If you are unable to solve by factoring, you can plug in answer choices until you find one that works.

Note: Not every quadratic can be solved by factoring. When you can’t factor, you can complete the square or use the quadratic formula. This post shows you how to complete the square. The steps from completing the square to solving the equation are left to you.

For more about solving a quadratic, see “How to Factor a Quadratic” and “How Can You Find a Quadratic’s Equation from Its Graph?”

The Accuplacer sample problem on which this one is based is #9 in the sample questions for the Accuplacer Advanced Algebra and Functions test.