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In the Sullivan Algebra & Trigonometry textbook, this property is stated as:

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If 𝑎 > 0, then >0 If a number is positive, then its reciprocal is also positive.

𝑎

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If 𝑎 < 0, then <0 If a number is negative, then its reciprocal is also negative.

𝑎

Example:

1

>0

(3𝑥 − 12)

3𝑥 − 12 > 0

3𝑥 > 12

𝑥>4

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The principle is a shortcut for simplifying a rational inequality in the form of > 0 or < 0.

𝑎 𝑎

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I did not understanding the shortcut jump made from

(3𝑥−12)

> 0 to 3𝑥 − 12 > 0.

I needed to see the intermediate steps of the shortcut so I can understand how this principle is valid. So

instead of using the Reciprocal Property for Inequalities, I used normal algebraic procedures to solve an

example rational inequality.

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Solving an Example Using Normal Algebraic Techniques:

(3𝑥 − 12)+2 (3𝑥 − 12)−1 > 0 (3𝑥 − 12)+2 Multiply both sides by exponent

+2

. Add exponents.

+1

. Right side value remains 0.

3𝑥 − 12 > 0 An expression with exponent

+1

is that same expression; removed parenthesis.

3𝑥 > 12

𝑥>4

Notes:

• Since exponent of original problem is −1, I multiplied both sides by the same expression but with an

exponent of +2. I chose +2 because when multiplying the binomials on the left, the exponents would

sum up to +1 and therefore I can remove the parenthesis and solve for 𝑥.

• Because the exponent I chose is an even power, it guarantees that the expression (3𝑥 − 12)+2 will

result to a positive value. This ensures that the inequality symbol will not need to change direction (as

when multiplying by a negative number).

• Therefore, the Reciprocal Property for Inequalities can be used as a shortcut to eliminate the fraction

when the exponent of the original expression is −𝑘, where k is odd.

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An Example That Will Not Work:

(3𝑥 − 12)+3 (3𝑥 − 12)−2 > 0 (3𝑥 − 12)+3

(3𝑥 − 12)+1 > 0

3𝑥 − 12 > 0

3𝑥 > 12

𝑥>4 Apparently this is the answer, or is it? See my Notes section below.

Notes:

• Since exponent of original problem is −2, I multiplied both sides by the same expression but with an

exponent of +3. I chose +3 because when multiplying the binomials on the left, the exponents would

sum up to +1 and therefore I can remove the parenthesis and solve for 𝑥.

• However, because the exponent I chose is an odd power, it does not guarantee that the expression

(3𝑥 − 12)+3 will result to a positive value. For example, if the value of x is 1, then the result inside

the parenthesis will become a negative value and a negative number raised to an odd power keeps that

number negative.

• The problem arises when we multiply both sides by the expression (3𝑥 − 12)+3 . If the value of x

causes that expression to become negative, we must change direction of the inequality symbol.

• Because we do not know the value of x, we cannot guarantee the expression (3𝑥 − 12)+3 will result

into a positive or negative value. Thus, we do not know whether the solution should have the

inequality pointing to the left or to the right.

Conclusion:

• The Reciprocal Property for Inequalities can be used as a shortcut to eliminate the fraction only when

the exponent of the original expression is −𝑘, where k is odd. For example, (3𝑥 − 12)−1 .

Resource: Algebra & Trigonometry, 7th Edition, Michael Sullivan, 2005, Pearson Education

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