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Lesson 1

Equations of a Straight Line


1.1 Cartesian Coordinate System
A Cartesian coordinate system consists of two perpendicular
axes XOX (the x-axis) and YOY (the y-axis) intersecting at
O (the origin).
Y
Taking a normal scale on

both axes, any point P in

the plane is characterized


by two coordinates : the

x-coordinate (the distance X'


X

O
from the y-axis) and the

y-coordinate (the distance

from the x-axis).

For example, the points

Y'
are located in the xy-plane as:

The coordinate axes divide the


Y
plane into four quarters.
We adopt the usual convention

that in the first quarter both x

and y coordinates are positive.


Second Quarter First quarter
In the second quarter the

x-coordinate is negative and X'


X
O

the y-coordinate is positive.

In the third quarter both x and

y coordinates are negative.


Third Quarter Fourth Quarter

In the fourth quarter the


x-coordinate is positive and the
Y'
y-coordinate is negative.
Thus we have a one to one correspondence between the set E2 of
points in the plane and the set of ordered pairs of real numbers:

R 2 {( x, y ) : x, y R}

1.2

Distance Between Two Points


Given two points P(x1,y1) and
Q(x2,y2), then the distance between
them can be obtained using
Pythagoras theorem and is given by:

d (P, Q) ( x2 x1 ) 2 ( y2 y1 ) 2

y
Q( x 2, y 2)
y 2y1
x 2 x1
P( x1, y1)

N( x 2, y1)
x

Example 1
Compute the distance between the two points (3,2) and (2,3).
Solution
d ((3,2), (2,3)) (2 3) 2 (3 2) 2 1 25 26
Example 2
Find the point equidistant from the two points (2,1) and (7,1)
and whose y-coordinate is 5.
Solution
Let the point be (x,5). Then:
( x 2) 2 (5 1) 2 ( x 7) 2 (5 1) 2 x 4.5
x 2 4 x 4 16 x 2 14x 49 16 Hence the point is (4.5,5).

1.3

Equation to a Straight Line


We mean by the equation to a
straight line any relation that
connects the coordinates (x, y) of
any current point on it. For
example the straight line parallel
to the y-axis and is two units to the
right of it has the equation x = 2.
y

The line parallel to the x-axis and is


one unit below it has the equation
y = 1.

1.4

The line whose equation is y = x is


equally inclined to the coordinate
axes.
Slope of a Straight Line
The slope of a straight line is
equal to the tangent of the angle
that the line makes with the
positive direction of the x-axis, i.e.
with OX. The figures below show
the slopes of some lines.
y

slope = 0

2 1

-
-

y
slope = 1

45 o

y
slope = 1

1.5

slope is undefined

Forms of Equations to a Straight Line


The equation of a straight line can take different forms
depending on the information we are given. The following are
y
the most famous forms:
slope= m = tan

1.5.1 Point-slope form


P (x ,y )
y y0
Let the straight line pass through

the point A(x0 , y0) and let its


A x(0 0,y ) N
slope be m. Take a current point
P(x , y) on the line.
x
PN y y0
y y0 m ( x x0 )
m tan

x x0
AN x x0

Example 1
Find the equation of the straight line passing through the point
(3,2) and whose slope is equal to 23 . Graph the line.
y
Solution
The equation is:
slope is 2/3
y 2 23 ( x 3)

i.e. 3( y 2) 2( x 3)
i.e. 2 x 3 y 0

Example 2
Write down the equation of
the set of straight lines
passing through the fixed
point (2,1). Graph the set.
Solution
The equation is:
y 1 m ( x 2)

(2,1)

Example 3
Write down the equation of
the set of straight lines
having a fixed slope 23 . Graph
the set.
Solution
The equation is:
y y0 23 ( x x0 )

1.5.2 Two points form


Let the straight line pass through
the two points A(x1,y1) and
B(x2,y2).
Applying the point-slope form,
the equation to the line is:

y y1 y2 y1

x x1 x2 x1

slope = 2/3

(3,2)

y2 y1

m tan

y2 y1
x2 x1

B ( x2 ,y2 )

A ( x1 ,y1 )
x
x2 x1

Example 1
Find the equation of the straight line passing through the two
y
points (3,2) and (2,3). Graph the line.

Solution
(3,2)

The equation is:

y 2 3 2 i.e. 1( y 2) 5( x 3)

x
x 3 23

i.e. 5x y 13

Example 2

Find the equation of the straight line


y
(0,7)
passing through the point (4,3) and is
parallel to the straight line passing

through the two points (1,3) and slope = 10


(4,3)

(0,7) . Graph the line.


Solution
7 ( 3)
The slope is: m
10
0 ( 1)

The equation is: y 3 10 ( x 4)

1.5.3 Slope - intercept form


Let m be the slope of the line and
let it intercept a part c from the
y-axis. Hence it passes through the
point (0,c).
Applying the point-slope form, the
equation to the line is:
y c = m ( x 0)
i.e. y mx c
Example
Find the equation of the set of
straight lines having a fixed
y-intercept = 1.5. Graph the set.
Solution
The equation is:
y = m x 1.5

(0, c )

c
x

y
(0,1.5)

1.5.4 Two intercepts form


Let the straight line intercepts a part a from the x-axis and a part
b from the y-axis. Hence it passes through the two points (a,0)
and (0,b).
y
Applying the two points form, then
(0, b )
the equation to the straight line is:
y 0 b0
b

i.e. y ( x a)
xa 0a
a
i.e. ay b( x a) i.e. ay bx ab
i.e. x y 1
a b
Solution
Example
Find the area of the triangular A 12 ab
3 4
region cut from the first quarter of
1
the xy-plane by the straight line
a b
passing through the point (3,4).
3b 2
A
b4

( a , 0)

A
a

(3,4)
x

1.5.5 The General form


We can write the equation to a straight line in the general
form:
A x + B y +C = 0
This form can be transformed to any one of the above
standard forms as follows:
A
C , B 0 (slope-intercept form)
y x
1.
B
B
Then the slope of the line is equal to A/B, and the
y-intercept is equal to C/B.
x
y
(two-intercepts form)
+
=1
2.
C / A C / B