# Graphing Rational Functions

## Understanding Rational Functions

In mathematics, functions are used to describe how an input value results in an output. There are different types of functions, including linear, quadratic, exponential, and logarithmic. In this article, we will specifically explore rational functions.

Rational functions are expressed as fractions, with both the numerator and denominator being polynomial functions. A polynomial function includes coefficients and variables. Examples of rational functions include **f(x) = x/(x+1)**, **g(x) = (x^2+2x+1)/(x+3)**, and **h(x) = (3x+1)/(2x-5)**. However, **i(x) = 1/x** and **j(x) = √x** are not considered rational functions.

When working with fractions in rational functions, it is crucial to note that the denominator cannot be zero. Therefore, we need to be cautious of any values or points that could result in an undefined function.

Let's examine **f(x) = 1/(x-2)** as an example. While this is a rational function, it becomes undefined when x=2. This is because dividing by zero is not possible. In the next section, we will discuss how asymptotes can represent these undefined parts in our graph.

## Graphing Rational Functions with Asymptotes

Asymptotes are a crucial concept when graphing rational functions. These are lines that a curve can get infinitely close to but never quite reach. Asymptotes can be vertical, horizontal, or oblique.

We represent asymptotes as dashed lines on our graphs. A vertical asymptote occurs when the curve approaches infinity as x approaches a constant value, while a horizontal asymptote is when the curve reaches a constant value as x tends towards infinity. An oblique asymptote is in the form of **y = mx + b**, with m and b being constants that need to be determined. However, for this article, we will focus on vertical and horizontal asymptotes.

For instance, in the graph of **f(x) = 1/(x-2)**, we can see a vertical asymptote at x=2 because the curve approaches, but never reaches, that value. There is also a horizontal asymptote at y=0. In the next section, we will learn how to determine these asymptotes for any rational function.

## Determining Vertical and Horizontal Asymptotes

When graphing rational functions, it is essential to identify any vertical and horizontal asymptotes. The process for finding a vertical asymptote is different from that of a horizontal asymptote, so we will discuss both methods here.

## Finding Vertical Asymptotes

A vertical asymptote is a value of x that the graph approaches but never reaches due to division by zero. Therefore, to find the vertical asymptotes, we need to set the denominator equal to zero and solve for x.

For example, in the function **f(x) = 1/(x-3)**, the denominator is (x-3). Setting this equal to zero, we get (x-3) = 0 and solving for x, we get x=3. Thus, the vertical asymptote is x=3.

Similarly, in the function **g(x) = (x^2+1)/(x+5)**, the denominator is (x+5). Setting this equal to zero, we get (x+5) = 0. By factoring, we get (x+5)(x-1) = 0, and using the zero product property, we get two equations for the vertical asymptotes: x+5=0 and x-1=0. The vertical asymptotes are x=-5 and x=1.

## Finding Horizontal Asymptotes

To determine the horizontal asymptotes, we need to identify the value(s) that the function approaches as x tends towards infinity.

Firstly, we need to understand the concept of the degree of a polynomial. The degree of a polynomial is the order of the highest power in the function. For example, the polynomial **f(x) = 2x^3-6x+2** is a degree 3 polynomial as the highest power is 3.

Now, to find the horizontal asymptotes, we need to compare the degrees of the numerator and denominator. If the degree of the numerator is greater than the degree of the denominator, there is no horizontal asymptote. However, if the degree of the numerator is less than the degree of the denominator, the horizontal asymptote is y=0. Lastly, if the degrees are equal, the horizontal asymptote is the ratio of the leading coefficients of the numerator and denominator.

For instance, in the function **h(x) = (3x+4)/(2x-1)**, the degree of the numerator is 1 and the degree of the denominator is 1. Therefore, the horizontal asymptote is y=3/2. In contrast, in the function **i(x) = (x^3+1)/(x^2-3x+2)**, the degree of the numerator is 3 and the degree of the denominator is 2. Thus, there is no horizontal asymptote.

## Understanding Asymptotes and Graphing Rational Functions

When dealing with rational functions, it is crucial to find and graph their asymptotes. These lines, represented as dashed lines on the graph, provide valuable information about the behavior of the function. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can easily find the vertical and horizontal asymptotes of any rational function and graph it accurately.

## Finding Asymptotes

The horizontal asymptote of a rational function is determined by the degrees and coefficients of the numerator and denominator. If the degree of the numerator is less than the degree of the denominator, the horizontal asymptote is y=0. If the degrees are equal, the horizontal asymptote is y=the ratio of the leading coefficients. If the degree of the numerator is greater than the degree of the denominator, there is no horizontal asymptote. The vertical asymptote is found by setting the denominator equal to 0 and solving for x.

## Finding Intercepts

The intercepts of a function are the points where the graph crosses the x or y-axis. To find the x-intercepts, set the function equal to 0 and solve for x. To find the y-intercept, plug in 0 for x and solve for y.

## Graphing Rational Functions

To graph a rational function, start by finding the asymptotes and intercepts. Plot them on the graph and connect them with a smooth curve. Then, choose values of x on both sides of the vertical asymptote and find the corresponding values of y. Plot these points and connect them with a smooth curve to complete the graph.

For example, let's graph the function y=(x-4)/(x+3):

- Horizontal asymptote: y=1
- Vertical asymptote: x=-3
- Intercepts: x-intercept is 4, y-intercept is -4/3

Using these points, we can plot the graph and connect them with a smooth curve.

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