# GRE Math Quick Review - Square Roots

fashionablemathematician June 6, 2008

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Introduction

In this document, we’re going to go over squares and square roots of numbers. The concept of squaring a number is fairly simple: Given a real number x, the square of x, denoted by x2 , is the number obtained by multiplying x by itself: x2 = x × x (1) Some examples; 42 = 4 × 4 = 16 0 =0×0=0 (−3.2) = (−3.2) × (−3.2) = 10.24 4 4 4 16 ( )2 = × = 11 11 11 121 For quick reference, here are the squares of the ﬁrst few integers: x x2 0 0 1 1 2 4 3 9 4 16 5 25 6 36 7 49 8 64 9 81 10 100 11 121 12 144
2 2

(2) (3) (4) (5)

A few things to note about squaring: • Every real number has a square (no exceptions). • The notation x2 really does signify an exponential expression. Squaring is the same as using an exponent of 2. • If x2 = y, then (−x)2 = y as well. • Except for 0, the square of any number is positive.

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To see this. Because of this. equals the number x. let’s look at an example. We begin with two useful formulas: Multiplication of Square Roots: Given two nonnegative real numbers a and b. we would like to deﬁne the square root of a real number x as the number which. you’ve either made an error. Almost. As we saw above. √ x. we’ll only be dealing with principal (positive) square roots. or the answer choice is incorrect. For this reason. √ √ √ ( x)2 = x × x = x √ so that in our example above. 25 = 5. Let’s take a look at what we can do with these things. the operations of squaring and square rooting are closely linked with multiplication. 52 = 5 × 5 = 25 (−5) = (−5) × (−5) = 25 2 (6) (7) This is no good! We have two reasonable candidates for the square root of 25. Unfortunately. Naively. Since squaring a number never yields a negative result. which just means that it isn’t unique). we should expect nice behavior when we mix multiplication and division with square roots. such a number is not unique! (In mathematics. we often say that the square root is not well-deﬁned. the following notation is very important to understand: The principal square root of a number x. we note one more important fact. negative numbers do not have square roots. √ √ √ a× b= a×b (9) 2 . if you come across the square root of a negative number.As you might expect. x √ x 0 0 1 1 4 2 9 3 16 4 25 5 36 6 49 7 64 8 81 9 100 10 121 11 144 12 Finally. denoted by positive (or zero) number such that. On the GRE. taking the square root of a number is a reverse to the process of squaring a number. is the unique (8) Here is a table of square roots for basic reference (it should look rather familiar to the table of squares above!). but not when we mix addition or subtraction with square roots. 2 Essential Formulas For the rest of the section. when squared.

3 . given two nonnegative real numbers a and b (b = 0). the following techniques are often useful: • Estimate square roots by using common roots as “signposts. • Square roots of negative numbers do not exist/are undeﬁned. √ √ 9 + 16 = 3 + 4 = 7 (17) √ √ 9 + 16 = 25 = 5 (18) 3 Facts of Use • The principal square root of a number can not be negative. √ √ √ 27 × 3 = 27 × 3 (10) √ = 81 (11) =9 (12) Division of Square Roots: Similarly. √ √ • If a > b. and √ √ that 25 = 5. This means 26 will be just a little bigger than 5. Take a look at the following counterexample. √ a a √ = (13) b b We can utilize the rule in the same fashion. if asked to use 26.This is often useful when dealing with square roots that don’t have nice integer values. note that 26 is just a little bigger than 25. √ 600 600 √ (14) = 24 24 √ = 25 (15) =5 (16) Note that we get no such rules for addition of square roots. 4 Speciﬁc Techniques When working problems involving square roots. then a > b. an exponential expression.” For exam√ ple. • The square root is also denoted by x1/2 .

45 We could try applying the division rule: 80 45 (19) √ 80 √ = 45 unfortunately this leaves us with a nasty fraction (though we could solve it from here). as is allows us to simplify our original expression as follows. √ √ √ 80 16 × 5 √ = √ √ (22) 45 9× 5 √ 16 (23) = √ 9 4 = (24) 3 This process is particularly important. (C) The two quantities are equal. let’s rewrite the numerator and denominator using the multiplication rule in reverse: √ √ √ √ 80 = 16 × 5 = 16 × 5 (20) √ √ √ √ 45 = 9 × 5 = 9 × 5 (21) That sure is nice. Instead. This is also known as simplifying the radical (radical is another name for the square root symbol). cannot be determined from the information given. (B) B is greater. Take a look at the example below. Column A: √ √36 64 Column B: √ √ 49 100 (A) The quantity in column A is greater.• Simplify square roots by using the multiplication rules backwards. 5 Exercises √ √ 101+ 17? 1. The quantity in column (D) The relationship 4 . Suppose we want to simplify √ √80 . Which of the following is closest to the value of (A) 11 (B) 13 (C) 14 (D) 16 (E) 17 2. because answers on the GRE are almost always expressed in simplest terms.

101 is just a little bit bigger than 100. cannot be determined from the information given. cannot be determined from the information given. Given that x2 = 121: Column A: √ 121 Column B: x The quantity in column (D) The relationship (A) The quantity in column A is greater. Simplify the following expression: √ √ √75 . Column A: √ z 16 Column B: (z 2 )4 The quantity in column (D) The relationship (A) The quantity in column A is greater. √ √ 101 + 17 should be just a smidge larger than 10 + 4 = 14. (C) The two quantities are equal. We could directly apply the division rule for square roots to answer this problem. (C) The two quantities are equal. 50 3 2 (A) 3 2 (B) √ √3 2 (C) √ √5 2 (D) (E) √ 3 2 5. 2. it should be clear that this is an estimation question. but this would yield some icky fractions. (B) B is greater. 4. Now. √ two “signpost” square roots we should know. 6 Solutions and Explanations 1. Given that we don’t have the convenience of a calculator on the GRE. and 17 is just a little bit bigger√ than 16. so the answer is C. We can simply substitute in the values to see: √ 6 36 √ = (25) 8 64 √ 49 7 √ = (26) 10 100 5 . Remember that we can not combine the square roots. (B) B is greater.3. Since 100 = 10 and 16 = 4. since we are adding rather than multiplying. Slow down for a second and notice that all the square roots in this problem have integer values (look back at the table if you don’t recall these).

we don’t have to worry about the square root being undeﬁned. and it is. we see that the answer is B.6 This leaves us with a simple comparison of fractions. we have: √ √ √ 75 25 × 3 √ =√ √ 50 25 × 2 √ 3 =√ 2 In either case. This is because z is raised to an even power. 7 10 = . A note before solving this problem. 4. recall from above that taking the square root of a number is the same as raising that number to the exponent of one-half. so 3. We wish to simplify the expression √75 . and the answer is C. We can thus rewrite the 1 quantity in column A as (z 16 ) 2 . The rest of the problem deals with exponents. we see that the two quantities are equal. the same thing. we can apply the division rule in reverse: √ 3 3 (31) =√ 2 2 Another approach is to simplify the numerator and denominator separately by using the multiplication rule: √ √ √ √ 75 = 25 × 3 = 25 × 3 (32) √ √ √ √ 50 = 25 × 2 = 25 × 2 (33) Plugging these results in.7. To see this. in fact. which always produces a positive (or zero) value. We apply the rule for the exponentiation of an exponential expression: (z 16 ) 2 = z 16× 2 = z 8 (z 2 )4 = z 2×4 = z 8 Thus. (34) (35) 6 . 50 First. Although no value of z is speciﬁed here. yielding answer A. Now.75 and that the quantity in column A is greater. 8 = . let’s directly apply the division rule: √ 75 75 √ = (29) 50 50 = 3 2 (30) √ 1 1 (27) (28) This almost looks like answer B. We’ll consider two approaches.

we always mean the principal square √ root.5. since the quantity in column B could be either 11 or −11. when we write 121. we can not determine the relationship from the information given. 7 . which can not be negative. There are two solutions to the equation x2 = 121. This question is testing our understanding of what the principal square root is. Thus. answer D. Remember that we said both of these numbers are square roots of 121. 121 = 11. Now. as in column A. How√ ever. x = 11 and x = −11.