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QUADRATIC EQUATIONS

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Learning Objective(s)

Apply quadratic functions to real world situations in order to solve problems.

Introduction

Quadratic functions are more than algebraic curiositiesthey are widely used in science,

business, and engineering. The U-shape of a parabola can describe the trajectories of water

jets in a fountain and a bouncing ball, or be incorporated into structures like the parabolic

reflectors that form the base of satellite dishes and car headlights. Quadratic functions help

forecast business profit and loss, plot the course of moving objects, and assist in determining

minimum and maximum values. Most of the objects we use every day, from cars to clocks,

would not exist if someone, somewhere hadn't applied quadratic functions to their design.

We commonly use quadratic equations in situations where two things are multiplied together

and they both depend of the same variable. For example, when working with area, if both

dimensions are written in terms of the same variable, we use a quadratic equation. Because the

quantity of a product sold often depends on the price, we sometimes use a quadratic equation

to represent revenue as a product of the price and the quantity sold. Quadratic equations are

also used when gravity is involved, such as the path of a ball or the shape of cables in a

suspension bridge.

followed by objects thrown upward at an angle. In these cases, the parabola represents the path

of the ball (or rock, or arrow, or whatever is tossed). If we plot distance on the x-axis and height

on the y-axis, the distance of the throw will be the x value when y is zero. This value is one of

the roots of a quadratic equation, or x-intercepts, of the parabola. We know how to find the

roots of a quadratic equationby either factoring, completing the square, or by applying

the quadratic formula.

Lets look at a throw made by a shot-putter. Notice that x = 0 when the shot-putter has the shot

(a heavy metal ball) in his handthe shot hasn't gone anywhere yet. The shot-putter usually

starts with the shot at his shoulder, so y (height) is not 0 when x = 0:

Example

Problem A shot-put throw can be modeled using the

equation ,

where x is distance traveled (in feet) and y is

the height (also in feet). How long was the

throw?

The throw ends when the

shot hits the ground. The

height y at that point is 0, so

set the equation equal to

zero.

This equation is difficult to

factor or to complete the

square, so we'll solve by

applying the quadratic

formula,

Simplify.

or

The parabola described by

the quadratic function has

two x-intercepts. But the shot

x 46.4 or -4.9 only traveled along part of

that curve.

the distance traveled because

it is a negative number.

must give the distance of the

throw.

Answer

Approximately 46.4 feet

Although a stadium field of synthetic turf appears to be flat, its surface is actually shaped

like a parabola. This is so that rainwater runs off to the sides. If we take a cross section

of the turf, the surface can be modeled by , where x is

the distance from the left end of the field and y is the height of the field. What is the width

of the field?

A) 80 ft

B) 1.5 ft

C) 234 ft

D) 160 ft

Show/Hide Answer

Another common use of the quadratic equation in real world applications is to find maximum

(the most or highest) or minimum (the least or lowest) values of something. Recall that the

vertex is the turning point of a parabola. For a parabola opening downward, the vertex is the

high point, which occurs at the maximum possible y value. For a parabola opening upward, the

vertex is the lowest point of the parabola, and occurs at the minimum y value.

To use a quadratic equation to find a maximum or minimum, we usually want to put the

quadratic equation into the vertex form of a quadratic equation, . This lets

us quickly identify the coordinates of the vertex (h, k).

Let's see how this works by trying a motion problem. The equation is

commonly used to model an object that is launched or thrown. The variable h represents the

height in feet, and t represents the time in seconds. The other two values are usually given

numbers: h0 is the initial height in feet and v0 is the initial velocity in feet/second.

When working with this equation, we assume the object is in free fall, which means it is moving

under the sole influence of gravity. There is no air resistance or any other interference of any

kind (not so likely in the real world, but still, these equations are quite helpful).

Example

Problem A ball is launched upward at 48 ft/s from a

platform that is 100 ft. high. Find the

maximum height the ball reaches and how

long it will take to get there.

Start with the equation that models an object

being launched or thrown

and height h0 = 100.

Since we want to get the vertex form of the

equation, a(x h)2, factor -16 out of the first

two terms. The value of a is -16 and we will

use t for x. That way we can complete the

square on t2 3t to get the equation in

vertex form.

Remember that when we complete the

square, we add a value to the expression.

Because of the coefficient on the t2 term, this

can get a little confusing, so we are going to

prepare to complete the square for t2 3t by

adding c to t2 3t, inside the parentheses.

equation, we must also add it to the other

side. Because the quantity added, c, is

inside the parenthesis on the right, we are

actually adding -16c. This means when we

add the quantity to the left side, we must add

-16c.

To complete the square on x2 + bx, we

add , so .

Substitute this value in for c on both sides of

the equation.

Simplify, writing the square of the binomial

on the right

and on the left.

Add 36 to both sides. We now have the

vertex form, and can identify the vertex

as .

stands for time. The y-coordinate represents

height.

Answer

The maximum height is

136 feet and it will take

1.5 seconds to reach

this height

We could have found the vertex by using other methods, such as by graphing or by using the

formula to find the x-coordinate of the vertex, then substitute that x-value into the

original formula to get the y-value of the vertex).

A farmer has 1000 feet of fencing and a very big field. She can enclose a rectangular

area with dimensions x ft and 500 x ft. What is the largest rectangular area she can

create?

A) 62,500 ft2

B) 250,000 ft2

C) 1,000 ft2

D) 500 ft2

Show/Hide Answer

Modeling a Situation

Quadratic equations are sometimes used to model situations and relationships in business,

science and medicine. A common use in business is to maximize profit, that is, the difference

between the total revenue (money taken in) and the production costs (money spent).

The relationship between the cost of an item and the quantity sold is often linear. In other words,

for each $1 increase in price there is a corresponding decrease in quantity sold. (Think about it:

if the price of something goes up, do you buy more or less? Hopefully less!) Once we determine

a relationship between the selling price of an item and the quantity sold, we can think about how

to generate the most profit. At what selling price do we make the most money?

The amount of profit will be found by taking the total revenue (the quantity sold multiplied by the

selling price) and subtracting the cost to produce the all the items: Profit = Total Revenue

Production Costs. We can integrate the linear relationship of selling price to quantity and

the Profit formula and create a quadratic equation, which we can then maximize. Lets look at

an example:

Quantity Sold in 1

Selling Price $ (s)

year (q)

10 1000

15 900

20 800

25 700

In order to calculate the profit, we also need to know how much it costs to produce each item.

For this example, the cost to produce each item is $10.

Example

Problem Using the data given above,

determine the selling price s,

which produces the maximum

yearly profit.

Plot s on the horizontal axis

and q on the vertical axis. Use

any two of the points on the

straight line of the plot to find

the slope of the line to be -20.

Read the y-intercept as 1200.

intercept form (y = mx + b):

q = -20s + 1200

q = -20s + 1200

q = quantity sold

s = selling price of the item

Profit formula is P = Total

Revenue Production Costs

P = sq 10q

Total Revenue = price

quantity sold

item quantity sold

So P = sq 10q

Substitute -20s + 1200 for q in

P = s(-20s + 1200) 10(-20s + 1200) profit formula.

P = -20s2 + 1200s + 200s 12000 combine like terms. We now

have a quadratic function.

P = -20s2 + 1400s 12000

By finding the vertex of the

parabola, we will find the

selling price that will generate

the most profit. The x-axis

represents selling price, so the

value of the x-coordinate at

the vertex represents the best

price.

give the amount of profit

made.

Find the x-coordinate of the

vertex by applying the

formula . In this

case, the variable is s rather

than x. The other values

are a = -20, the coefficient in

the s2 term, and 1400, the

coefficient in the s term.

Answer

The selling price that generates the

maximum profit is $35

Next is a word problem you may not think is a quadratic equation. The area problem below

does not include a quadratic formula of any type and the problem seems to be something you

have solved many times before by simply multiplying. But in order to solve it, you will need to

use a quadratic equation.

Example

Problem

Bob made a quilt that is 4 ft x 5 ft. He has 10 sq. ft. of fabric to create a

border around the quilt. How wide should he make the border to use all

the fabric? (The border must be the same width on all four sides.)

dont know the width of the

border, we give it the variable x.

Since each side of the original 4

x 5 quilt has the border of

width x added, the length of the

quilt with the border will be 5 +

2x, and the width will be 4 + 2x.

think Ah ha, this may be a

quadratic equation after all. We

have both dimensions written in

the same variable, and will

multiply them to get an area!")

Area of border = Area of the blue rectangle minus We are only interested in the

the area of the red rectangle area of the border strips. Write

an expression for the area of the

Area of border = (4 + 2x)(5 + 2x) (4)(5) border.

10 = (4 + 2x)(5 + 2x) 20 border, so set the area of the

border to be 10.

Simplify.

Subtract 10 from both sides so

that we have a quadratic

equation set equal to zero and

can apply the quadratic formula

to find the roots of the equation.

Use the quadratic formula. In this

case, a = 4, b = 18, and c = -10.

Simplify.

that the is evaluated for both

values.

or

Ignore the solution x = -5, as the

width could not be negative.

Answer

The width of the border should

be 0.5 ft.

You are provided with the following price vs. quantity information. Write an equation that

will represent yearly profit P for a selling price s. The production cost per item is $30.

Selling Quantity

Price s Sold q

100 7000

200 6000

500 3000

600 2000

800 0

A) P = -10s + 8000

B) P = sq 30q

C) P =

D) P =

Show/Hide Answer

Summary

Quadratic functions are used in many types of real world situations. They are useful in

describing the trajectory of a ball, determining the height of a thrown object and in optimizing

profit for businesses. When solving a problem using a quadratic function it may be necessary to

find the vertex or to describe a section of the parabola.

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