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Quadratic Equations and Complex Numbers

Module by: Kenny M. Felder. E-mail the author

Summary: This module looks at quadratic equations with a negative discriminant in Algebra.

In the unit on quadratic equations and complex numbers, we saw that a quadratic equation can have two answers, one answer, or no answers.

We can now modify this third case. In cases where we described “no answers” there are actually two answers, but both are complex! This is easy to see if you remember that we found “no answers” when the discriminant was negative—that is, when the quadratic formula gave us a negative answer in the square root.

As an example, consider the equation:

2x2+3x+5=02x2+3x+5=0

The quadratic equation gives us:

x = 3±324(2)(5)4x =3±324(2)(5)4 size 12{ { { - 3 +- sqrt {3 rSup { size 8{2} } - 4 \( 2 \) \( 5 \) } } over {4} } } {} == 3±3143±314 size 12{ { { - 3 +- sqrt { - "31"} } over {4} } } {}

This is the point where, in the “old days,” we would have given up and declared “no answer.” Now we can find two answers—both complex.

= 34±3114=34±3114 size 12{ { { - 3} over {4} } +- { { sqrt {"31"} sqrt { - 1} } over {4} } } {} == 34±314i 34±314 size 12{ { { - 3} over {4} } +- { { sqrt {"31"} } over {4} } } {}i

So we have two answers. Note that the two answers are complex conjugates of each other—this relationship comes directly from the quadratic formula.

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A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

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