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Unit: Roots and Radicals Module: Complex Numbers [Page 1 of 1]

• Numbers like −4 or −9.5 that involve the square root of a negative

number are called imaginary numbers.

• Imaginary numbers can be written in terms of the number i, which is equal

to the square root of -1: i = −1 .

• A complex number has the form a + bi where a is a real number and bi is

some number multiplying with i, an imaginary number.

When you see a number under a square root sign, you are
being asked for the value that multiplied with itself to give
the number under the radical sign; i.e., the root that
produced the number under the radical sign.

There is no real number that multiplies with itself and gives a

negative answer. So, the square root of any negative
number must be an imaginary number.

Then you can separate the factors so that you have a

positive square root to find and the square root of the –1.
Because the square root of any negative number is
imaginary, mathematicians have developed a special set of
numbers.

The -1 is represented in the answer by i. The square root of

9 is the 3. Without the use of i, we would be unable to
= 3i

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Unit: Roots and Radicals Module: Complex Numbers [Page 1 of 1]

Rewriting Powers of i

• i= −1 . The number i is an example of an imaginary number.

• i 2 = –1.

• i3=i .
i 2 = i . –1 = -i = - −1 .

• i 4 = (i 2) 2 = -1 . -1 = 1.

• Every power of i is equal to one of these four values (i, -1, - i, and 1).

i is called an imaginary number because in our number system

there is no number which can multiply by itself and still be
negative.
No one knows what the square root of a negative might be; it
must be imaginary. Try it. You won’t find one.

i 2 turns that imaginary number, i, into an imaginary number with

a real number value, not by any magic, but by using normal
multiplication rules:
−1 .
−1 = ( −1 )2 = -1
i can be read as i . i 2. That’s a good idea since we know the
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value of both of those.

Substituting –1 for i 2, gives us our value.
i 4 equals i 2 . i 2, which is -1 -1. Doing the multiplication, you get
1 as the product.

There are no more values beyond i 4.

i and i 2 are defined. i 3 and i 4 are combinations of i and i 2 that
Starting with i 5, the values start over because everything is
some combination of the first four values. The values make a
loop that starts over every four terms.

Your value will always be wherever you fall in that loop. Divide
the power given for i in your problem by 4. The value you need
will be the value for i using the remainder as your power.

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Unit: Roots and Radicals Module: Complex Numbers [Page 1 of 1]

• A Complex Number is a binomial composed of a variable or constant with

an imaginary, or i -number, being added or subtracted.

• When adding complex numbers, add like terms according to the normal
rules. Add constants to constants, variables to variables, and imaginary
numbers to imaginary numbers.

• When subtracting complex numbers, subtract like terms according to the

normal rules, paying attention to sign changes across parentheses as you
combine constants with constants, variables with variables, and imaginary
numbers with imaginary numbers.

Adding complex numbers means that you

♦ Variables with variables
♦ i ’s with i’’s
♦ Constants with constants

Subtracting complex numbers follows the

same rules:
♦ Variables with variables
♦ i ‘s with i ‘s
♦ Constants with constants

Remember: Watch your signs and use your

parentheses correctly.

It may even pay to write out the numbers with

their signs changed before you do any
combining.

This one mistake creates more errors with this

type of numbers than any other action.

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Unit: Roots and Radicals Module: Complex Numbers [Page 1 of 1]

• i = −1 . This is called an imaginary number because there are no

examples of a number which multiplies with itself to produce a negative
number. Therefore, no one knows what the square root of a negative might
be; it must be imaginary.

• i 2 = -1. This follows from the definition of a square root. If you multiply a
square root times itself, you get the base being rooted.

• FOIL: Multiply binomials by multiplying

• First terms together
• Outer terms together
• Inside terms
• Last terms, and adding all the products together.
This guarantees that you multiply everything and get all your products
without losing any.

Here are i and i 2 defined for you. Learn them.

They turn up wherever complex numbers turn
up.

Multiplying with complex numbers works

just like FOIL with a binomial.

Note the i 2 becomes -1 which means that

the -15 becomes +15.

The only new thing to remember is that

when you get an i 2 change it to –1. The
net effect is to create a constant with the
opposite sign.

Once you’ve done that, if there are other

constants, combine them.

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Unit: Roots and Radicals Module: Complex Numbers [Page 1 of 1]

• A Conjugate is a binomial that copies itself but changes the connecting

sign with the result that multiplying the two binomials gives the difference in
the squares of their terms.

• Conjugates are used when fractions have radicals or imaginary numbers in

their denominators as a means of clearing those values from the
denominators.

• i= −1

• i 2 = -1

The first step in dividing with complex numbers is to clear

the complex values from the denominator.

So, multiply both top and bottom of the fraction by the

conjugate of the denominator.
This process leaves all real numbers in the denominator
and adds a complex number to the numerator.

Once you’ve cleared the undesirable numbers from the

denominator, you can proceed to solve the problem quite
nicely.

Let’s try another one. Multiply the top and bottom of the
fraction by 2 – i, the conjugate of the denominator.

This one leads you into the paths that are common with
imaginary numbers and radicals. It’s not difficult, but the