Sunday, November 8, 2015

[S2_20151107SLFC] Simultaneous Linear Equations with Fractional Coefficients


     Somebody said, “Dear Algebra, please stop asking me about your  x.  She is not coming back.  Don’t ask me  y!”
     Here we have here linear equations that appear to be more tricky than the usual fanfare.  This is because the coefficients of the unknowns  x  and  y  are fractions.  In school, students learn to solve these using the method of substitution and the method of elimination.  They tend to prefer to do it by the former method, because psychologically it seems easier to accept.  However, the latter matter is generally more effective and yields a shorter solution.  This question is like a fly trap for those who prefer the method of substitution.  You make either  x  or  y  the subject from one of the equations, and then substitute that into the other equation.  This yields a complicated algebraic fractions within algebraic fractions.  The more complicated your solution is, the higher chance there is for making careless mistakes.  It is a good idea that students get out of their comfort zones and adopt a new skill.  So how do we do it?

The smart tactic
     First, we need to clear away the fractions by multiplying through with the LCM of the denominators appearing in each equation.  For the first equation, LCM(4, 8) = 8.  Since  4  is a factor of  8,  8  is like a giant that absorbs the number  4.  OK, so we multiply the first equation through by  8.  For the second equation, we multiply every term by LCM (3, 2) = 6


     As you can see, equations [3] and [4] both contain – 3y  and this can be eliminated via subtraction.  So the value of  x  comes out easily.  Now once  x  is known, one can find the  y!
For another example of simultaneous equations, please refer to this article.

H04. Look for pattern(s)
H05. Work backwards
H10. Simplify the problem
H11. Solve part of the problem
H13* Use Equation / write a Mathematical Sentence

Suitable Levels
Lower Secondary Mathematics (Secondary 2)
GCE ‘O’ Level “Elementary” Mathematics (revision)
* other syllabuses that involve algebra, linear simultaneous equations

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