1.2 Writing Equations of Straight Lines

Calculating the slope of a line

The slope of a line is a measure of the steepness of the line.

If a line rises from left to right, the slope is a positive value.
If a line falls from left to right, the slope is a negative value.
The slope of a horizontal line is zero.
The slope of a vertical line is undefined.

To calculate the slope of a line knowing two (x, y) points, we can proceed as follows:
1) Label each (x, y) point as (x1, y1) and (x2, y2).
2) Substitute these numerical values into the slope formula as follows, where m is the slope of the line:

[latex]m=\frac{y_2-y_1}{x_2-x_1}[/latex]

Example:
Calculate the slope of the line containing the points (1, 5) and (2, -1)

Solution:
1) Label each (x, y) point as (x1, y1) and (x2, y2):   Label the point (1, 5) as (x1, y1) and label the point (2, -1) as (x2, y2).
2) Substitute these numerical values into the slope formula as follows, where m is the slope of the line:

[latex]m=\frac{y_2-y_1}{x_2-x_1}=\frac{-1-5}{2-1}=\frac{-6}1=-6[/latex]

Equations of Straight Lines

The equation of a straight line is often written in the format:

[latex]y = mx + b[/latex]

where m is the slope of the line, and
b is the y-intercept of the line.

This format for a straight line is called the “slope-intercept” form of the line.

For example the equation:

[latex]y = 10x + 2[/latex]

would indicate a line with slope of 10 and y-intercept of 2.

In some cases, an alternate format is convenient, called “point-slope” formula:

[latex]y - y_1 = m(x - x_1)[/latex]

where [latex](x1, y1)[/latex] is a point falling on the line, and
m is the slope of the line.

In Calculus applications, we will obtain the slope from a “derivative function” and use that slope to write the equation of a line using this point-slope formula:

Example:
Write the equation of a line with slope of -2 and passing through the [latex](x, y)[/latex] point of [latex](7, -3)[/latex]

Solution:
Start out with the point slope formula:

[latex]y - y_1 = m(x - x_1)[/latex]

Replace m with -2 and replace [latex](x_1, y_1)[/latex] with the given point [latex](7, -3)[/latex], so that [latex]x_1 = 7[/latex] and [latex]y_1 = -3[/latex]:

[latex]y - (-3) = -2(x - 7)[/latex]

[latex]y + 3 = -2x + 14[/latex]

[latex]y = -2x + 11[/latex]

 

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