Solving Absolute Value Equations
Date: 01/12/2004 at 20:04:39 From: Baffled Dad Subject: Absolute value My child was recently given this homework problem in absolute values: ABS(x + 1) = ABS(x - 1), solve for x. I thought I knew how to solve these problems, but now I'm not sure. It seems x = 0 is the only solution since ABS(+1) = ABS(-1). But I do not know how to begin to set this problem up in algebra form. If the problem were ABS(x+1) = 1, then I would setup the problem as follows: (x + 1) = 1 or -(x + 1) = 1 x = 0 x + 1 = -1 x = -2 But having variables on both sides is more confusing. Can you help?
Date: 01/12/2004 at 20:29:14 From: Doctor Schwa Subject: Re: Absolute value Hi Baffled Dad - You have the right idea! To extend your thinking, if abs(some stuff) = abs(other stuff), there are two possibilities: (some stuff) = (other stuff) OR (some stuff) = -(other stuff) So, for abs(x + 1) = abs(x - 1), either x + 1 = x - 1 OR x + 1 = -(x - 1) 1 = -1 x + 1 = -x + 1 Impossible 2x = 0 No solution x = 0 This confirms your thought that x = 0 is the only possible solution. Note that there will not always be an impossible side--usually each statement will yield distinct solutions. Finally, what happens if we start the other way? -(x + 1) = x - 1 OR x + 1 = x - 1 -x - 1 = x - 1 1 = -1 0 = 2x Impossible 0 = x No solution As you can see, the overall result is the same. Thus, you can choose whichever initial statement you like and you don't have to consider the other way around. Enjoy, - Doctor Schwa, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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