Chapter 1: Introduction to Rational Expressions
[First Half: Introduction to Rational Expressions]
1.1: Defining Rational Expressions
In this subchapter, we will introduce the concept of rational expressions and explore their basic structure and properties.
A rational expression is a mathematical expression that can be written as a fraction, where the numerator and denominator are both polynomials. The numerator is a polynomial, and the denominator is a nonzero polynomial.
The general form of a rational expression is:
$\frac{P(x)}{Q(x)}$
where $P(x)$ and $Q(x)$ are polynomials, and $Q(x) \neq 0$.
Some examples of rational expressions include:
 $\frac{3x^2 + 2x  1}{x  2}$
 $\frac{5}{x^2  4}$
 $\frac{x^3  2x^2 + 3x  1}{x^2 + 3x + 2}$
In these examples, the numerators and denominators are both polynomials, and the denominators are nonzero.
The key properties of rational expressions are:
 Domain: The domain of a rational expression is the set of all real numbers $x$ for which the denominator is nonzero. This is because division by zero is not defined.
 Simplification: Rational expressions can often be simplified by identifying and canceling common factors between the numerator and denominator.
 Operations: The basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) can be performed on rational expressions, following specific rules and procedures.
Understanding the definition and properties of rational expressions is essential for manipulating and working with these expressions in various mathematical contexts.
Key Takeaways:
 Rational expressions are fractions where the numerator and denominator are both polynomials, and the denominator is nonzero.
 The domain of a rational expression is the set of real numbers where the denominator is nonzero.
 Rational expressions can be simplified by identifying and canceling common factors between the numerator and denominator.
 Rational expressions can be combined using the basic arithmetic operations, following specific rules and procedures.
1.2: Simplifying Rational Expressions
In this subchapter, we will learn how to simplify rational expressions by identifying and canceling common factors between the numerator and denominator.
Simplifying a rational expression involves reducing the expression to its simplest form, which is the form with the least number of factors in both the numerator and denominator.
The steps to simplify a rational expression are:
 Identify common factors: Examine the numerator and denominator to find any common factors, such as common variables, constants, or polynomial terms.
 Cancel common factors: Divide both the numerator and denominator by their common factors to eliminate them and obtain the simplified expression.
Let's consider an example:
$\frac{6x^2  12x}{3x  6}$
Step 1: Identify common factors. The common factor between the numerator and denominator is 3.
Step 2: Cancel the common factor. $\frac{6x^2  12x}{3x  6} = \frac{2x^2  4x}{x  2}$
In this simplified form, the numerator and denominator no longer have any common factors, and the expression is in its simplest form.
Another example:
$\frac{x^3  2x^2 + x}{x^2  1}$
Step 1: Identify common factors. The common factor between the numerator and denominator is $(x  1)$.
Step 2: Cancel the common factor. $\frac{x^3  2x^2 + x}{x^2  1} = \frac{(x  1)(x^2  x + 1)}{(x  1)} = x  1 + \frac{1}{x  1}$
By simplifying the rational expression, we have reduced the numerator and denominator to their simplest forms, making it easier to work with the expression in further calculations or manipulations.
Key Takeaways:
 Simplifying a rational expression involves identifying and canceling common factors between the numerator and denominator.
 The goal is to reduce the expression to its simplest form, with the least number of factors in both the numerator and denominator.
 Canceling common factors is a crucial step in simplifying rational expressions, as it eliminates unnecessary terms and makes the expression more manageable.
1.3: Operations with Rational Expressions
In this subchapter, we will explore the basic operations that can be performed on rational expressions, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Addition and Subtraction of Rational Expressions: To add or subtract rational expressions, we need to find a common denominator and then perform the operation.
The steps are:
 Find the least common multiple (LCM) of the denominators.
 Multiply the numerator and denominator of each rational expression by the appropriate factor to obtain the common denominator.
 Perform the addition or subtraction operation on the numerators, keeping the common denominator.
Example: Perform the addition $\frac{2x + 1}{x  1} + \frac{3x  2}{x + 2}$
Step 1: Find the LCM of the denominators, which is $(x  1)(x + 2)$. Step 2: Multiply the first fraction by $(x + 2)$ and the second fraction by $(x  1)$ to obtain the common denominator. $\frac{2x + 1}{x  1} \cdot \frac{x + 2}{x + 2} + \frac{3x  2}{x + 2} \cdot \frac{x  1}{x  1} = \frac{2x^2 + 5x + 2}{x^2 + x  2}$ Step 3: Add the numerators and keep the common denominator.
Multiplication and Division of Rational Expressions: Multiplying and dividing rational expressions follows the standard rules of fraction multiplication and division.
To multiply two rational expressions:
 Multiply the numerators.
 Multiply the denominators.
To divide one rational expression by another:
 Invert the second fraction (the divisor).
 Multiply the first fraction (the dividend) by the inverted divisor.
Example: Divide $\frac{x^2  4}{x  2}$ by $\frac{x + 2}{x  1}$
Step 1: Invert the divisor. $\frac{x  1}{x + 2}$ Step 2: Multiply the dividend by the inverted divisor. $\frac{x^2  4}{x  2} \cdot \frac{x  1}{x + 2} = \frac{x^3  3x^2  4x + 8}{x^2  4}$
Performing these basic operations on rational expressions is essential for manipulating and simplifying more complex algebraic expressions involving fractions.
Key Takeaways:
 To add or subtract rational expressions, find a common denominator and then perform the operation on the numerators.
 To multiply rational expressions, multiply the numerators and multiply the denominators.
 To divide one rational expression by another, invert the divisor and then multiply the dividend by the inverted divisor.
 Mastering these operations is crucial for working with and simplifying rational expressions in various mathematical contexts.
1.4: Solving Rational Equations
In this subchapter, we will learn how to solve rational equations, which are equations that contain rational expressions.
Solving a rational equation involves finding the values of the variable(s) that make the equation true.
The general steps for solving a rational equation are:
 Clear the denominators: Multiply both sides of the equation by the least common multiple (LCM) of the denominators to eliminate the fractions.
 Simplify the resulting equation: Expand and combine like terms to obtain a polynomial equation.
 Solve the polynomial equation: Use standard algebraic techniques, such as factoring or applying the quadratic formula, to find the solutions.
 Check the solutions: Substitute the solutions back into the original rational equation to ensure they are valid.
Let's consider an example:
Solve the equation: $\frac{x + 2}{x  1} = \frac{3x  1}{x + 3}$
Step 1: Clear the denominators. Multiply both sides by the LCM of the denominators, which is $(x  1)(x + 3)$. $(x + 2)(x + 3) = (3x  1)(x  1)$
Step 2: Simplify the equation. Expand and combine like terms: $x^2 + 5x + 6 = 3x^2  4x  3$
Step 3: Solve the polynomial equation. Subtract $x^2$ from both sides: $2x^2  9x + 9 = 0$ Solve using the quadratic formula: $x = \frac{9 \pm \sqrt{81  72}}{4} = \frac{9 \pm 3}{4} = 3, \frac{2}{2}$
Step 4: Check the solutions. Substitute the solutions back into the original equation to verify that they are valid.
By following these steps, you can solve rational equations and find the values of the variable(s) that satisfy the equation.
Key Takeaways:
 Rational equations contain rational expressions and must be solved using specialized techniques.
 The key steps are: clearing the denominators, simplifying the resulting equation, solving the polynomial equation, and checking the solutions.
 Clearing the denominators is a crucial first step to eliminate the fractions and convert the equation into a polynomial form that can be solved using standard algebraic methods.
 Checking the solutions by substituting them back into the original equation ensures that the found solutions are valid.
[Second Half: Applications of Rational Expressions]
1.5: Modeling RealWorld Situations with Rational Expressions
In this subchapter, we will explore how rational expressions can be used to model and solve realworld problems.
Rational expressions are often used to represent and analyze situations involving rates, ratios, and proportions. These types of problems can arise in various contexts, such as:
 Rate problems: Calculating speeds, flow rates, or other quantities that involve a ratio of two measurements.
 Mixture problems: Determining the composition of a mixture by considering the ratios of its components.
 Inverse variation problems: Modeling situations where two quantities are inversely related, such as the relationship between the speed and time of a journey.
 Proportional reasoning problems: Solving problems that involve direct or inverse proportions between quantities.
Let's consider an example of a realworld problem that can be modeled using rational expressions:
Example: Fuel Efficiency A car travels 360 miles on 15 gallons of gasoline. What is the car's fuel efficiency in miles per gallon?
To solve this problem, we can set up a rational expression:
Let $x$ be the fuel efficiency in miles per gallon. Then, the distance traveled (360 miles) divided by the amount of gasoline used (15 gallons) is equal to the fuel efficiency:
$\frac{360 \text{ miles}}{15 \text{ gallons}} = x \text{ miles/gallon}$
Simplifying the rational expression, we get: $x = \frac{360}{15} = 24 \text{ miles/gallon}$
In this example, we used a rational expression to model the relationship between the distance traveled, the amount of gasoline used, and the fuel efficiency of the car. By solving the resulting rational equation, we were able to determine the car's fuel efficiency in miles per gallon.
Rational expressions can be used to model a wide range of realworld situations, allowing us to set up and solve problems involving rates, ratios, and proportions. Mastering the skills to work with rational expressions is crucial for applying mathematics to solve practical problems.
Key Takeaways:
 Rational expressions can be used to model and solve realworld problems involving rates, ratios, and proportions.
 Common types of realworld problems that can be represented using rational expressions include rate problems, mixture problems, inverse variation problems, and proportional reasoning problems.
 Setting up the appropriate rational expression and solving the resulting equation allows us to find the unknown quantities in these practical situations.
 Developing the ability to model realworld problems using rational expressions is an important skill for applying mathematics to solve practical problems.
1.6: Graphing Rational Functions
In this subchapter, we will explore the graphing of rational functions, which are functions that can be expressed as a ratio of two polynomials.
A rational function takes the general form:
$f(x) = \frac{P(x)}{Q(x)}$
where $P(x)$ and $Q(x)$ are polynomials, and $Q(x) \neq 0$.
The key features of the graph of a rational function include:

Asymptotes: Rational functions can have two types of asymptotes:
 Vertical asymptotes: Occur at the values of $x$ where the denominator $Q(x)$ is zero, provided that the numerator $P(x)$ is not also zero at those values.
 Horizontal asymptotes: Occur when the limit of the function as $x$ approaches positive or negative infinity is a constant value.

Domains and Ranges: The domain of a rational function is the set of all real numbers $x$ for which the denominator $Q(x)$ is nonzero. The range of a rational function depends on the specific form of the function and its behavior.

Symmetry: Some rational functions may exhibit symmetry, such as even or odd symmetry, which can be determined by the properties of the numerator and denominator polynomials.

Behavior: Rational functions can exhibit a variety of behaviors, such as increasing, decreasing, or oscillating, depending on the specific form of the function.
Let's consider an example of graphing a rational function:
$f(x) = \frac{x^2  4}{x  2}$
To graph this function, we need to:
 Identify the vertical asymptote(s): The vertical asymptote occurs at $x = 2$, as the denominator is zero at this value.
 Identify the horizontal asymptote(s): To find the horizontal asymptote, we need to consider the degree of the numerator and denominator. In this case, the degree of the numerator is 2, and the degree of the denominator is 1, so the horizontal asymptote is the line $y = 0$.
 Sketch the graph: With the knowledge of the asymptotes, we can sketch the general shape of the rational function, including its behavior as it approaches the asymptotes.
By understanding the key features of rational functions and the techniques for graphing them, students can develop the ability to accurately sketch and interpret the behavior of these functions, which is essential for solving a variety of mathematical problems.
Key Takeaways:
 Rational functions are functions that can be expressed as a ratio of two polynomials.
 The graph of a rational function has characteristic features, such as vertical and horizontal asymptotes, domains and ranges, and symmetry.
 Identifying the asymptotes and other properties of a rational function is crucial for sketching its graph accurately.
 Mastering the graphing of rational functions allows students to visualize and interpret the behavior of these functions, which is valuable for solving realworld problems.
1.7: Rational Inequalities and their Solutions
In this subchapter, we will learn how to solve rational inequalities, which involve comparing rational expressions.
A rational inequality is an inequality where at least one of the expressions is a rational expression. Examples of rational inequalities include:
 $\frac{x + 2}{x  1} > 3$
 $\frac{2x  1}{x + 1} \leq \frac{x  3}{x + 2}$
 $\frac{x^2  4}{x  2} < \frac{x + 1}{x  2}$
Solving rational inequalities involves several steps:
 Clear the denominators: Multiply both sides of the inequality by the least common multiple (LCM) of the denominators to eliminate the fractions.
 Simplify the resulting inequality: Expand and combine like terms to obtain a polynomial inequality.
 Solve the polynomial inequality: Use standard techniques, such as sign analysis or graphing, to find the solution set.
 Check the solution: Verify that the found solution(s) satisfy the original rational inequality.
Let's consider an example:
Solve the inequality: $\frac{x + 2