# 3.4. Solving simultaneous linear equations. Introduction. Prerequisites. Learning Style. 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 block 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 will require the use of more general elimination procedures or the use of matrix algebra. Both of these topics are discussed in later chapters. Prerequisites Before starting this Block you should... Learning Outcomes After completing this Block you should be able to... solve pairs of simultaneous equations be able to solve linear equations Learning Style To achieve what is expected of you... allocate sufficient study time briefly revise the prerequisite material attempt every guided exercise and most of the other exercises

2 1. Solving simultaneous equations by elimination One way of solving simultaneous equations is by elimination. As the name implies, elimination, involves removing one of the unknowns. Note that if both sides of an equation are multiplied or divided by a non-zero number an equivalent equation results. For example, if we are given the equation x +4y =5 then by multiplying both sides by 7, say, 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. By then subtracting one modified equation from the other that unknown is eliminated. Consider the following example. Example Solve the simultaneous equations 3x +5y = 31 (1) 2x +3y = 20 (2) Solution We first try to modify each equation so that the coefficient of x is the same in both equations. This can be achieved if the Equation (1) is multiplied by 2 and the Equation (2) is multiplied by 3. This gives 6x + 10y = 62 6x + 9y = 60 Now the unknown x can be removed (or 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 given equations is x =7,y = 2. You should always check your solution by substituting back into both of the given equations. Engineering Mathematics: Open Learning Unit Level 0 2

3 Example Solve the equations 3x + y = 18 (3) 7x 3y = 44 (4) Solution 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: that is x = 5 3x + 3 = 18 so that 3x =15 Example Solve the equations 5x + 3y = 74 2x 3y = 26 Solution Note that the coefficients of y differ here only in sign. By adding the two equations we find 3x = 48 so that x = 16. It then follows that y =2. Try each part of this exercise Solve the equations 5x 7y = 80 (5) 2x +11y = 106 (6) First modify the equations so that the coefficient of x is the same in both. This means that if Equation (5) is multiplied by 2 then Equation (6) must be multiplied by 5 Part (a) Write down the resulting equations: Part (b) Subtract these to eliminate x and hence find y Finally verify that x = 2. Answer Answer 3 Engineering Mathematics: Open Learning Unit Level 0

4 2. Equations with no solution On occasions we may encounter a pair of simultaneous equations which have no solution. Consider the following example. Example Show that the following equations have no solution. 10x 2y = 3 (7) 5x + y = 1 (8) Solution 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. 3. Equations with an infinite number of solutions Some pairs of simultaneous equations can possess an infinite number of solutions. Consider the following example. Example Solve the equations 2x + y = 8 (9) 4x +2y = 16 (10) Engineering Mathematics: Open Learning Unit Level 0 4

5 Solution 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 =0y = 8. Similarly, if x =1y = 6, and if x = 3, 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. More exercises for you to try 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 =46 2. 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. Answer 4. The graphs of simultaneous linear equations We are aware that each of the equations in a pair of simultaneous linear equations is 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 equations as this pair of values satisfy 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). Although not the most convenient (or accurate) approach it is possible to solve simultaneous equations using this graphical approach. Consider the following examples. Example Solve the simultaneous equations by plotting two straight line graphs. 4x + y = 9 (11) x + y = 1 (12) 5 Engineering Mathematics: Open Learning Unit Level 0

6 Solution 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 1. Similarly, Equation (12) can be rearranged as y = x 1 and its graph drawn. This is also shown in Figure 1. y II: y = x 1 x I: y = 9 4x Figure 1. 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 =1. Example Solve the equations: 10x 2y = 3, 5x y = 1. Solution Re-writing the equations in standard form we find y =5x + 3, and y =5x +1 2 Graphs of these lines are shown in Figure 2. 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 = 5 x Figure 2. Engineering Mathematics: Open Learning Unit Level 0 6

7 More exercises for you to try 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. Answer 7 Engineering Mathematics: Open Learning Unit Level 0

8 5. Computer Exercise or Activity For this exercise it will be necessary for you to access the computer package DERIVE. DERIVE can be used to solve simultaneous equations. First key in Solve:System to obtain the Equation Setup box. Choose the number of equations appropriately (2 in this case) and hit the OK button. There will now be displayed an Author expression screen into which the two equations must be entered. For example to solve 2x y =3, 4x +17y =4keyin2x y = 3 in the first row and 4x +17y = 4 in the second row. Click on the Equation variables box to check that the variables (unknowns) are x and y. If you hit the OK button DERIVE responds: SOLVE([2 x y =3, 4 x +17 y =4], [x, y]) which informs the user of the equations to be solved and of the unknown variables. Now hit Simplify:Basic to get the response: [x = 55 y = ] If you wish to solve equations with constants, for example 3x + ky =6, 4x ky = 3 then key in the equations as above. Now, in the Equation variables box highlight your variables: x and y again. Proceed to solve as before to get [x = 9 y = k ] A useful exercise would be to ckeck the solutions to the simultaneous equations which are given throughout this Block. Engineering Mathematics: Open Learning Unit Level 0 8

9 End of Block Engineering Mathematics: Open Learning Unit Level 0

10 10x 14y = 160, 10x +55y = 530 Back to the theory Engineering Mathematics: Open Learning Unit Level 0 10

11 10 Back to the theory 11 Engineering Mathematics: Open Learning Unit Level 0

12 1.(a) x =2,y = 2 (b) x =2,y = 2 (c) x = 5,y =1 2. y = 1 3 x y = x x Back to the theory Engineering Mathematics: Open Learning Unit Level 0 12

13 1. x =2,y =3 2. x = 5/3,y = 2/3 3. x =1,y =6 4. x =2,y = 3 Back to the theory 13 Engineering Mathematics: Open Learning Unit Level 0

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