FINDING PARTIAL FRACTION DECOMPOSITIONS

Your textbook fails to mention a fairly basic trick for making most partial fraction decomposition problems relatively painless. I went over this in class, and I
review it here just in case you missed that day or lost your notes.
First suppose we have a proper fraction P (x)/Q(x), such that the polynomial
Q(x) splits into linear, distinct factors. We demonstrate an easy method for finding
the partial fraction decomposition by example:
Example: Take the fraction
position looks like

x2 +2
(x−1)(x−2)(x−3)(x−4) .

The partial fraction decom-

A
B
C
D
x2 + 2
=
+
+
+
.
(x − 1)(x − 2)(x − 3)(x − 4)
x−1 x−2 x−3 x−4
To find A, for example, multiply both sides by x − 1:
x2 + 2
x−1
x−1
x−1
= A+B
+C
+D
.
(x − 2)(x − 3)(x − 4)
x−2
x−3
x−4
Now notice what happens if we plug in x = 1: all the terms on the left except A
are killed off; so we conclude that

.

x2 + 2 1 .

. A= =− .

. (x − 2)(x − 3)(x − 4) x=1 2 Similarly.

.

x2 + 2 .

(x − 1)(x − 3)(x − 4) . B= = 3.

x−2 x−2 Now take derivatives of both sides. (x−1)2 (x−2) We have the partial fraction decomposition x A B C = + + . respectively. We get x−2−x 2(x − 1)(x − 2) − (x − 1)2 = A + B. Here’s an example: Example: Let’s take x . to isolate A and C. Now look at the expression above when we’ve multiplied by (x − 1)2 : x (x − 1)2 =A + B(x − 1) + C. but we have to take derivatives to do it. What if we had repeated factors? We can still avoid writing down systems of equations. multiplying the expression above by x − 2 and (x − 1)2 .x=2 C and D can similarly found by a 1-line computation. (x − 2)2 (x − 2)2 1 . 2 (x − 1) (x − 2) x − 2 x − 1 (x − 1)2 We can get A and C using the trick above.

To recap: we can use a trick to find the partial fraction decomposition of P (x)/Q(x). provided Q(x) factors into linear factors. . we get the coefficient A of the highest power (x − ai )n dividing Q(x) by the method above. send me an e-mail or stop by during office hours. If the factors of Q(x) are A distinct. and (x−ai )n then repeatedly take derivatives to get the rest. the term multiplying A disappears. so we’ve successfully isolated B. we get the coefficient of x−a by multiplying both sides by x − ai .2 FINDING PARTIAL FRACTION DECOMPOSITIONS Again if we plug in x = 1. This was a very quick review of what we did. and i then plugging in x = ai . If we have some repeated factors. If you are unsure of how the method works.