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Multiplication and Division of Rational Expressions

Simplifying Rational Expressions


We define a Rational Expression as a fraction where the numerator and the denominator are
polynomials in one or more variables.

Examples

A. x2 - y2

is a rational expression.
(x - y)

To simplify, we just factor and cancel:

(x - y)(x + y)

x +y
=

(x - y)
B.

x-y

3x2 - 4x

x(3x - 4)
=

2x - x

Exercises:

A.

2x2 - x - 1
3x2 - 2x - 1

3x - 4
=

x(2x - 1)

2x - 1

B.

8x2 + 18x + 9
12x2 + 17x + 6

C. x2 - xy - 2x + 2y

x2 - xy - 3x + 3y

Multiplication of Fractions
Recall that when we multiply fractions we first cross cancel. For example:
8 21

=
9 10

28
=

15

When we multiply rational expressions we follow the same approach. First we factor then we
cross cancel.
Examples:

A. 32a2

21x2b4
Cross Cancel

7xb2

8a3

B. x2 - 2x + 1

x2 + 4x + 3
First Factor

x +1

x-1

(x - 1)2

(x + 3)(x + 1)

Cancel the x + 1 and the x - 1


x+1

x-1

= (x - 1)(x + 3)

Exercises
Multiply and simplify

A. 14x2

21x3y3

9y
8x

B. 2x2 - 5x - 12

3x2 - 11x - 4

3x2 -14x - 5
2x2 - 7x - 15

C. 9x2 - 6xy + y2

6x3y

2xy2 -6x2y

3x - y

Division of Fractions
Recall that when we divide fractions we multiply by the reciprocal.
For example:

8
9

21

=
10

=
9

10

28
=

15

21
For rational functions we do the same thing. To divide rational functions, multiply by the
reciprocal and then factor and cross cancel.

Example
A.

17a2b3
17a2b3

18yx

9xy

=
34a2
9xy

=
18yx

34a2

b3

x2 - x - 2

B.

x2 - x - 2

x+3

3x + 9

=
2x + 2

x+3

2x + 2

3x + 9
(x - 2)(x + 1)

3(x + 3)

=
x+3

2(x + 1)

Exercises
Divide.
A.

17a2b3
18xy
34a2
9xy

B.

3x - 6
=

32x2c
12a2b
17a2x2

16x

34b2c

9a

C.

8x + 4
x-3
2x2 - 5x - 3

D.

x2 - 3x - 18
x2 + 5x + 6
x2 - 8x + 12
x2 - 4

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