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Attribution Non-Commercial (BY-NC)

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EQUATIONS

SOLVING EQUATIONS WITH THE SAME BASE

To solve an exponential equation, the following property is sometimes helpful:

If a > 0 , a 1 , and

a x = a y , then x = y.

If

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Example: Solve log3 (5 x 6) = log3 ( x + 2) for x:

Solution:

log3 (5 x 6) = log3 ( x + 2)

5x 6 = x + 2

5x x = 2 + 6

4x = 8

x=2

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Example: Solve 2 x +1 = 8 for x.

Solution: Here, the bases are not the same, but we find that we are able to manipulate the

right-hand side to make the bases the same.

2 x +1 = 8

2 x +1 = 2 3

x +1 = 3

x=2

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CANCELLATION LAWS

Since the exponential and logarithmic functions are inverse functions, cancellation laws

apply to give:

log a (a x ) = x for all real numbers x

We know that e is the most convenient base to work with for exponential and logarithmic

functions. The same cancellation laws apply for the natural exponential and the natural

logarithm:

ln(e x ) = x

e ln x = x

These last two cancellation laws will be especially useful if you study calculus. To solve

a simple exponential equation, you can take the natural logarithm of both sides.

(Technically, you can take the logarithm with any base, but the natural log is often the

easiest.) Similarly, to solve a simple logarithmic equation, you can take the natural

exponential of both sides. At this point, the equation can be solved using basic algebra.

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Example: Solve e 2 x = 8 for x.

Solution:

e2x = 8

ln(e 2 x ) = ln(8)

2 x = ln(8)

x=

ln(8)

2

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Example: Solve ln( x + 5) = 4 for x.

Solution:

ln( x + 5) = 4

e ln( x +5 ) = e 4

x + 5 = e4

x = e4 5

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