A rational expression is an algebraic expression in which whole number powers of the variable may appear in the numerator or denominator of a fraction.
For example, these are rational expressions:
For now, we will be most interested in rational expressions that involve only first and second powers of the variable.
Recall that division by zero is not defined. Since rational expressions may contain variables in the denominator, we must be careful to avoid any values for the variable that would result in a zero denominator. We'll call these values restricted values.
The value is restricted from the rational expression . Do you see why?
We will study lots of rational expressions and rational equations throughout the semester. Right now, we are only interested in rational equations that can be reduced to linear equations. We'll look at two special cases:
Important point: A solution of a rational equation can never be a restricted value. Be sure to check for this!
Radical equations are equations involving radicals and roots. A typical approach for solving certain kinds of radical equations is to isolate the radical and "undo" it by raising each side of the equation to the appropriate power. It is crucial that you check your answers in the original problem.
Keep in mind that radicals with even-power indicies can never be negative!
A rational exponent is an exponent that can be written as a fraction involving whole numbers. Rational (fractional) exponents denotes radicals, and expressions involving fractional exponents can be written in radical form. The key idea is that
Be careful about making sure that these kinds of expressions are defined!
For example, is only defined when . All other -values are restricted.
On the other hand, is defined for all real .
To solve an equation involving rational exponents, we might
Some equations can be reduced to simpler equations by means of a substitution of variables. Each of these can be reduced to quadratic and an appropriate substitution.