# 3.4. Solving Simultaneous Linear Equations. Introduction. Prerequisites. Learning Outcomes

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1 Solving Simultaneous Linear Equations 3.4 Introduction Equations often arise in which there is more than one unknown quantity. When this is the case there will usually be more than one equation involved. For example in the two linear equations 7x + y = 9, 3x + 2y = 1 there are two unknowns: x and y. In order to solve the equations we must find values for x and y that satisfy both of the equations simultaneously. The two equations are called simultaneous equations. You should verify that the solution of these equations is x = 1, y = 2 because by substituting these values into both equations, the left-hand and right-hand sides are equal. In this Section we shall show how two simultaneous equations can be solved either by a method known as elimination or by drawing graphs. In realistic problems which arise in mathematics and in engineering there may be many equations with many unknowns. Such problems cannot be solved using a graphical approach (we run out of dimensions in our 3-dimensional world!). Solving these more general problems requires the use of more general elimination procedures or the use of matrix algebra. Both of these topics are discussed in later Workbooks. Prerequisites Before starting this Section you should... Learning Outcomes On completion you should be able to... be able to solve linear equations solve pairs of simultaneous linear equations 42 HELM (2008): Workbook 3: Equations, Inequalities & Partial Fractions

2 1. Solving simultaneous equations by elimination One way of solving simultaneous equations is by elimination. As the name implies, elimination, involves removing one or more of the unknowns. Note that if both sides of an equation are multiplied or divided by a non-zero number an exactly equivalent equation results. For example, if we are given the equation x + 4y = 5 then by multiplying both sides by 7 we find 7x + 28y = 35 and this modified equation is equivalent to the original one. Given two simultaneous equations, elimination of one unknown can be achieved by modifying the equations so that the coefficients of that unknown in each equation are the same and then subtracting one modified equation from the other. Consider the following example. Example 27 Solve the simultaneous equations 3x + 5y = 31 (1) 2x + 3y = 20 (2) We first try to modify each equation so that the coefficient of x is the same in both equations. This can be achieved if Equation (1) is multiplied by 2 and Equation (2) is multiplied by 3. This gives 6x + 10y = 62 6x + 9y = 60 Now the unknown x can be eliminated if the second equation is subtracted from the first: 6x + 10y = 62 subtract 6x + 9y = 60 0x + 1y = 2 The result implies that 1y = 2 and we see immediately that y must equal 2. To find x we substitute the value found for y into either of the given Equations (1) or (2). For example, using Equation (1), 3x + 5(2) = 31 3x = 21 x = 7 Thus the solution of the simultaneous equations is x = 7, y = 2. N.B. You should always check your solution by substituting back into both of the given equations. HELM (2008): Section 3.4: Solving Simultaneous Linear Equations 43

3 Example 28 Solve the equations 3x + y = 18 (3) 7x 3y = 44 (4) We modify the equations so that x can be eliminated. For example, by multiplying Equation (3) by 7 and Equation (4) by 3 we find 21x + 7y = x 9y = 132 If these equations are now added we can eliminate x. Therefore 21x + 7y = 126 add 21x 9y = 132 0x 2y = 6 from which 2y = 6, so that y = 3. Substituting this value of y into Equation (3) we obtain: 3x + 3 = 18 so that 3x = 15 so x = 5. The solution is x = 5, y = 3. Example 29 Solve the equations 5x + 3y = 74 (5) 2x 3y = 26 (6) Note that the coefficients of y differ here only in sign. By adding Equation (5) and Equation (6) we find 3x = 48 so that x = 16. It then follows that y = 2, and the solution is x = 16, y = HELM (2008): Workbook 3: Equations, Inequalities & Partial Fractions

4 Task Solve the equations 5x 7y = 80 2x + 11y = 106 The first step is to modify the equations so that the coefficient of x is the same in both. If the first is multiplied by 2 then the second equation must be multiplied by what? 5 Write down the resulting equations: 10x 14y = 160, 10x + 55y = 530 Subtract one equation from the other to eliminate x and hence find y: 55y ( 14y) = 530 ( 160) so 69y = 690 so y = 10. Now substitute back to find x: x = 2 HELM (2008): Section 3.4: Solving Simultaneous Linear Equations 45

5 2. Equations with no solution On occasions we may encounter a pair of simultaneous equations which have no solution. Consider the following example. Example 30 Show that the following pair of simultaneous equations have no solution. 10x 2y = 3 (7) 5x + y = 1 (8) Leaving Equation (7) unaltered and multiplying Equation (8) by 2 we find 10x 2y = 3 10x + 2y = 2 Adding these equations to eliminate x we find that y is eliminated as well: 10x 2y = 3 add 10x + 2y = 2 0x + 0y = 1 The last line 0 = 1 is clearly nonsense. We say that Equations (7) and (8) are inconsistent and they have no solution. 46 HELM (2008): Workbook 3: Equations, Inequalities & Partial Fractions

6 3. Equations with an infinite number of solutions Some pairs of simultaneous equations can possess an infinite number of solutions. following example. Consider the Example 31 Solve the equations 2x + y = 8 4x + 2y = 16 (10) (9) If Equation (9) is multiplied by 2 we find both equations are identical: 4x + 2y = 16. This means that one of them is redundant and we need only consider the single equation 2x + y = 8 There are infinitely many pairs of values of x and y which satisfy this equation. For example, if x = 0 then y = 8, if x = 1 then y = 6, and if x = 3 then y = 14. We could continue like this producing more and more solutions. Suppose we choose a value, say λ, for x. We can then write 2λ + y = 8 so that y = 8 2λ The solution is therefore x = λ, y = 8 2λ for any value of λ whatsoever. There are an infinite number of such solutions. Exercises Solve the given simultaneous equations by elimination: 1. (a) 5x + y = 8, 3x + 2y = 10, (b) 2x + 3y = 2, 5x 5y = 20, (c) 7x + 11y = 24, 9x + y = A straight line has equation of the form y = ax + b. The line passes through the points with coordinates (2, 4) and ( 1, 3). Write down the simultaneous equations which must be satisfied by a and b. Solve the equations and hence find the equation of the line. 3. A quadratic function y = ax 2 + bx + c is used in signal processing to approximate a more complicated signal. If this function must pass through the points with coordinates (0, 0), (1, 3) and (5, 11) write down the simultaneous equations satisfied by a, b and c. Solve these to find the quadratic function. s 1.(a) x = 2, y = 2 (b) x = 2, y = 2 (c) x = 5, y = 1 2. y = 1 3 x y = x x HELM (2008): Section 3.4: Solving Simultaneous Linear Equations 47

7 4. The graphs of simultaneous linear equations Each equation in a pair of simultaneous linear equations is, of course, a linear equation and plotting its graph will produce a straight line. The coordinates (x, y) of the point of intersection of the two lines represent the solution of the simultaneous equations because this pair of values satisfies both equations simultaneously. If the two lines do not intersect then the equations have no solution (this can only happen if they are distinct and parallel). If the two lines are identical, there are an infinite number of solutions (all points on the line) because the two lines are one on top of the other. Although not the most convenient (or accurate) approach it is possible to solve simultaneous equations using this graphical approach. Consider the following examples. Example 32 Solve the simultaneous equations 4x + y = 9 (11) x + y 1 (12) by plotting two straight line graphs. Equation (11) is rearranged into the standard form for the equation of a straight line: y = 4x + 9. By selecting two points on the line a graph can be drawn as shown in Figure 8. Similarly, Equation (12) can be rearranged as y = x 1 and its graph drawn. This is also shown in Figure 8. y II: y = x 1 x I: y = 9 4x Figure 8: The coordinates of the point of intersection give the required solution The coordinates of any point on line I satisfy 4x + y = 9. The coordinates of any point on line II satisfy x + y = 1. At the point where the two lines intersect the x and y coordinates must satisfy both equations simultaneously and so the point of intersection represents the solution. We see from the graph that the point of intersection is (2, 1). The solution of the given equations is therefore x = 2, y = HELM (2008): Workbook 3: Equations, Inequalities & Partial Fractions

8 Task Find any solutions of the simultaneous equations: 10x 2y = 4, 5x y = 1 by graphical method. Re-writing the equations in standard form we find y = 5x 2, and y = 5x + 1 Graphs of these lines are shown below. Note that these distinct lines are parallel and so do not intersect. This means that the given simultaneous equations do not have a solution; they are inconsistent. y y = 5 x x y = 5x 2 Exercises Solve the given equations graphically: 1. 5x y = 7, 2x + y = 7, 2. 2x 2y = 2, 5x + y = 9, 3. 7x + 3y = 25, 2x + y = 4, 4. 4x + 4y = 4, x + 7y = 19. s 1. x = 2, y = 3 2. x = 5/3, y = 2/3 3. x = 1, y = 6 4. x = 2, y = 3 HELM (2008): Section 3.4: Solving Simultaneous Linear Equations 49

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