Lines and Slope || Chameleon Home || Ask Dr. Math
Horizontal and Vertical Lines
These lines look parallel. Are they? Let's check by calculating their slopes.
m = (y2 - y1) / (x2 - x1)
All three horizontal lines have a slope of 0, so they must all be parallel. In fact, every horizontal line has a slope of 0. Why is this true? Since a horizontal line never moves up or down, its
Vertical lines go straight up and down. Here is a picture of a vertical line. In this picture, Joan's tongue is also vertical.
Joan's tongue and the green line look parallel. In fact, like horizontal lines, vertical lines are always parallel to each other. Will all vertical lines have the same slope?
Let's try to calculate the slope of the green line. We can pick any two points on the line for our calculation: let's use
= (4 - 0) / (1 - 1)
= 4 / 0
We can't divide by zero, so we can't find the slope of this line. If we try to find the slope of Joan's tongue, will we run into the same problem? Let's use points
= (3 - 2) / (4 - 4)
= 1 / 0
Once again, we can't find the slope because we can't divide by zero. Because we can't find it, we say that the slope is undefined. Whenever we try to find the slope of a vertical line, we will run into the dividing-by-zero problem. This means that the slope of every vertical line is undefined.
Please send questions, comments, and suggestions
to Ursula Whitcher
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