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Exponential and Logarithm Equations

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Review : Logarithm Functions

Calculus I - Notes

In this section well take a look at solving equations with exponential functions or logarithms in

them.

Well start with equations that involve exponential functions. The main property that well need

for these equations is,

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Example 1 Solve

Solution

The first step is to get the exponential all by itself on one side of the equation with a coefficient

of one.

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Now, we need to get the z out of the exponent so we can solve for it. To do this we will use the

property above. Since we have an e in the equation well use the natural logarithm. First we

take the logarithm of both sides and then use the property to simplify the equation.

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Example 2 Solve

Solution

Now, in this case it looks like the best logarithm to use is the common logarithm since left hand

side has a base of 10. Theres no initial simplification to do, so just take the log of both sides

and simplify.

and

Now that weve seen a couple of equations where the variable only appears in the exponent we

need to see an example with variables both in the exponent and out of it.

Example 3 Solve

Solution

The first step is to factor an x out of both terms.

DO NOT DIVIDE AN x FROM BOTH TERMS!!!!

Note that it is very tempting to simplify the equation by dividing an x out of both terms.

However, if you do that youll miss a solution as well see.

So, its now a little easier to deal with. From this we can see that we get one of two possibilities.

The first possibility has nothing more to do, except notice that if we had divided both sides by an

x we would have missed this one so be careful. In the second possibility weve got a little more

to do. This is an equation similar to the first two that we did in this section.

and

The next equation is a more complicated (looking at least) example similar to the previous one.

Example 4 Solve

Solution

As with the previous problem do NOT divide an

solutions even though it simplifies the equation. Note however, that if you can divide a term

out then you can also factor it out if the equation is written properly.

So, the first step here is to move everything to one side of the equation and then to factor out the

.

At this point all we need to do is set each factor equal to zero and solve each.

and

As a final example lets take a look at an equation that contains two different logarithms.

Example 5 Solve

Solution

The first step here is to get one exponential on each side and then well divide both sides by one

of them (which doesnt matter for the most part) so well have a quotient of two exponentials.

The quotient can then be simplified and well finally get both coefficients on the other side.

Doing all of this gives,

Note that while we said that it doesnt really matter which exponential we divide out by doing it

the way we did here well avoid a negative coefficient on the x. Not a major issue, but those

minus signs on coefficients are really easy to lose on occasion.

This is now in a form that we can deal with so heres the rest of the solution.

Now lets take a look at some equations that involve logarithms. The main property that well be

using to solve these kinds of equations is,

Example 6 Solve

Solution

This first step in this problem is to get the logarithm by itself on one side of the equation with a

coefficient of 1.

Now, we need to get the x out of the logarithm and the best way to do that is to exponentiate

both sides using e. In other word,

So using the property above with e, since there is a natural logarithm in the equation, we get,

At this point we might be tempted to say that were done and move on. However, we do need to

be careful. Recall from the previous section that we cant plug a negative number into a

logarithm. This, by itself, doesnt mean that our answer wont work since its negative. What we

need to do is plug it into the logarithm and make sure that

to you to verify that this is in fact positive upon plugging our solution into the logarithm and so

is in fact a solution to the equation.

Lets now take a look at a more complicated equation. Often there will be more than one logarithm

in the equation. When this happens we will need to use on or more of the following properties to

combine all the logarithms into a single logarithm. Once this has been done we can proceed as we

did in the previous example.

Example 7 Solve

Solution

First get the two logarithms combined into a single logarithm.

, doesnt produce negative

numbers in both of the original logarithms. It doesnt, so this is in fact our solution to this

problem.

Lets take a look at one more example.

Example 8 Solve

Solution

As with the last example, first combine the logarithms into a single logarithm.

Now exponentiate, using 10 this time instead of e because weve got common logs in the

equation, both sides.

and

. Note, however that if we plug

into either of

the two original logarithms we would get negative numbers so this cant be a solution. We can

however, use

.

Therefore, the solution to this equation is

When solving equations with logarithms it is important to check your potential solutions to make

sure that they dont generate logarithms of negative numbers or zero. It is also important to make

sure that you do the checks in the original equation. If you check them in the second logarithm

above (after weve combined the two logs) both solutions will appear to work! This is because in

combining the two logarithms weve actually changed the problem. In fact, it is this change that

introduces the extra solution that we couldnt use!

Also be careful in solving equations containing logarithms to not get locked into the idea that you

will get two potential solutions and only one of these will work. It is possible to have problems

where both are solutions and where neither are solutions.

Review : Logarithm Functions

Calculus I - Notes

Review : Common Graphs

Online Notes / Calculus I (Notes) / Review / Review : Exponential and Logarithm Equations

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