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RATIONAL FUNCTIONS

A rational function is the ratio of two polynomial functions. If P(x) and Q(x) are
P(x)
polynomials, then a function of the form R ( x ) =
is a rational function where Q(x)#
Q(x )
0. The domain of R(x) is the intersection of the domains of P(x) and Q(x).
Properties:
Domain
The domain of the function is the set of all values that the variable x can take.
Range
The range of the function is the set of values that the variable y can take.
Vertical Asymptote
A vertical asymptote for R(x) is a vertical line x = k, where k is a constant, that
the
graph
of
R(x)
approaches but does not touch.
P(x)
If R ( x ) =
, then values of x that make Q(x) = 0 result in vertical asymptotes if
Q(x )
P(x) 0.
Horizontal Asymptote
P( x)
A rational function R ( x ) =
has a horizontal asymptote y = a, if as |x|
Q( x )
increases without limit, R(x) approaches a. R(x) has at most one horizontal asymptote.
The horizontal asymptote of R(x) may be found from a comparison of the degree of P(x)
and the degree of Q(x).
(1) If the degree of P(x) is less than the degree of Q(x), then R(x) has a horizontal
asymptote of y = 0.
(2) If the degree of P(x) is equal to the degree of Q(x), then R(x) has a horizontal
a
asymptote of y= , where a, is the leading coefficient (coefficient of the highest
b
degree term) of P(x) and b, is the leading coefficient of Q(x).
(3) If the degree of P(x) is greater than the degree of Q(x), then R(x) does not have a
horizontal asymptote.
x-intercept (zero of the function)
The x-intercept or the zero of the function is the value of x when y = 0.
P(x)
The x-intercept of R ( x ) =
is the value of x that makes P(x) = 0.
Q(x )
y-intercept
The y-intercept of the graph of the function is the value of y when x = 0.
P(x)
P(0)
The y-intercept of R ( x ) =
is the value of R ( x ) =
.
Q(x )
Q(0)

Examples:
1. Consider

R ( x) =

3x
.
x +2

a. Determine the x-intercept.


R ( x)=

3x
x +2

3x
=0
x +2
3 x=0
x=0 , therefore the x-intercept is 0.

b. Determine the y-intercept.


3x
R ( x)=
x +2
3(0)
R ( 0 )=
0+2
0
R ( 0 )=
2
R ( 0 )=0
y=0 , therefore the y-intercept is 0.
c. Determine the vertical asymptote.
3x
R ( x)=
x +2
x+ 2=0
x=2
Therefore, the vertical asymptote is at

x=2 .

d. Determine the horizontal asymptote.


3x
R ( x)=
x +2
Consider the leading coefficient of the numerator and denominator.
3
y=
1
y=3

Therefore, the horizontal asymptote is at


e. Sketch the graph of

R ( x) =

y=3 .

3x
.
x +2

Construct a table of values.


x

-6

-5

-4

-3

-2

-1

4.5

undefin
ed

-3

1.5

Plot the points on the Cartesian Plane.


f.

Determine the domain and the range based on the


graph.
Domain:
D= { x R|x 2 }
D=( ,2 ) (2,+ )
Range:
R= { y R| y 3 }
R=(, 3)(3,+ )

2. Given:

f ( x )=

x +3
x 2 x3
2

a. Determine the x and y-intercepts.


x +3
f ( x )= 2
x 2 x3
Find the x-intercept:

Find the y-intercept:

x+ 3
=0
x 2 x3
x+ 3=0
x=3
Therefore, the x-intercept = -3

x +3
x 2 x3
0+3
f ( 0 )= 2
(0) 2(0)3
3
f ( 0 )=
3
f ( 0 )=1
y=1
Therefore, the y-intercept = -1

f ( x )=

b. Determine the vertical and horizontal asymptotes.


Find the vertical asymptote:
Find the horizontal asymptote:
x +3
f ( x )= 2
2
x 2 x 3=0
x 2 x3
( x3 ) ( x+1 ) =0
The leading term of the numerator
x3=0 x+1=0
is x, while the leading term of the
x=3 x=1
denominator is x 2 . Since the degree
Therefore, the vertical asymptotes
of the numerator is less than the
are:
degree of the denominator, then the
x=3x =1
horizontal asymptote is given by:
c. Sketch the graph of

f ( x )=

x +3
x 2 x3
2

Step1. Plot the intercepts and asymptotes on the Cartesian Plane.

Step 2. Make a table of values using values greater than or less than the intercepts
and asymptotes to predict the movement of the graph.

-4

-3

-2

-0.05

0.2

-1
undefin
ed

-0.5

-1.43

-1

1.67

3
undefin
ed

4
1.4

Step 3. Sketch the graph based on the table of values.


You may also try using a graphing

Based
on the
graph,
application
such
as DESMOS or
the domain
giventhe
by:graph of a
GEOGEBRA
tois
sketch
D=
{
x

R
|
x
1,
x

3
}
rational function.
In interval notation:
D=( ,1 ) (1,3 ) (3,+ )

Activity: Form a trio and perform the given task.


Determine the intercepts and asymptotes of the given function then sketch its
graph and determine the domain.
x5
x5
a. f ( x )=
b. g ( x ) = 2
x3
x 8 x +12