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(732)

Chapter 7

Rational Expressions

64. Barn painting. Melanie can paint a certain barn by herself in x days. Her helper Melissa can paint the same

barn by herself in 2x days. Write a rational expression

for the fraction of the barn that they complete in one day

by working together. Evaluate the expression for x 5.

65. Writing. Write a step-by-step procedure for adding rational expressions.

66. Writing. Explain why fractions must have the same

denominator to be added. Use real-life examples.

7.5

COMPLEX FRACTIONS

In this section we will use the idea of least common denominator to simplify complex fractions. Also we will see how complex fractions can arise in applications.

In this

section

Complex Fractions

Complex Fractions

Applications

Complex Fractions

A complex fraction is a fraction having rational expressions in the numerator,

denominator, or both. Consider the following complex fraction:

1 2

Numerator of complex fraction

2 3

1 5

Denominator of complex fraction

4 8

To simplify it, we can combine the fractions in the numerator as follows:

1 2

13

22 3 4 7

2 3

23 32 6 6 6

We can combine the fractions in the denominator as follows:

1 5 12 5 2 5

3

4 8 42 8 8 8

8

Now divide the numerator by the denominator:

1 2

7

2

3

6

7

3

1 5

3 6 8

4 8

8

7

8

6

3

56

18

28

9

7.5

Complex Fractions

(733)

355

A complex fraction can be simplified by writing the numerator and denominator as

single fractions and then dividing, as we just did. However, there is a better method.

The next example shows how to simplify a complex fraction by using the LCD of

all of the single fractions in the complex fraction.

E X A M P L E

calculator

close-up

You can check Example 1 with

a calculator as shown here.

Use the LCD to simplify

1 2

2

3

1 5.

4 8

Solution

The LCD of 2, 3, 4, and 8 is 24. Now multiply the numerator and denominator of

the complex fraction by the LCD:

1 2

1 2

24

2

3

2 3

1 5 1 5

24

4 8

4 8

1

2

24 24

2

3

1

Distributive property

5

24 24

8

4

12 16

6 15

28

9

28

9

Simplify.

CAUTION

and denominator of the complex fraction by the LCD. Do not multiply the numerator and denominator of each fraction in the complex fraction by the LCD.

In the next example we simplify a complex fraction involving variables.

E X A M P L E

Simplify

1

2

x

1.

1

2

2

x

356

(734)

Chapter 7

helpful

hint

or subtraction in a complex

fraction, they often convert all

fractions to the same denominator. This is not wrong, but it

is not necessary. Simply multiplying every fraction by the

LCD eliminates the denominators of the original fractions.

Rational Expressions

Solution

The LCD of the denominators x, x 2, and 2 is 2x 2:

1

1

2

2 (2x2)

x

x

1

1

1

1

2

2

2 (2x )

x

2

2

x

1

2

2 2x 2x2

x

1

Distributive property

1

2 2x2 2x2

2

x

4x2 2x

2 x2

Simplify.

The numerator of this answer can be factored, but the rational expression cannot be

reduced.

The general strategy for simplifying a complex fraction is stated as follows.

Strategy for Simplifying a Complex Fraction

1. Find the LCD for all the denominators in the complex fraction.

2. Multiply both the numerator and the denominator of the complex fraction

by the LCD. Use the distributive property if necessary.

3. Combine like terms if possible.

4. Reduce to lowest terms when possible.

E X A M P L E

Simplify

1

2

x2 x2

3

4 .

2x x2

study

tip

Studying in an environment

similar to the one in which

you will be tested can increase

your chances of recalling information. When possible, review for a test in the classroom in which you will take

the test.

Solution

Because x 2 and 2 x are opposites, we can use (x 2)(x 2) as the LCD.

Multiply the numerator and denominator by (x 2)(x 2):

1

2

1

2

(x 2)(x 2) (x 2)(x 2)

x2

x2

x2 x2

3

4

3

4

(x 2)(x 2) (x 2)(x 2)

2x

x2

2x x2

x 2 2(x 2)

3(1)(x 2) 4(x 2)

x 2 2x 4

3x 6 4x 8

x 6

x 14

x2

1

2x

Distributive property

7.5

Complex Fractions

(735)

357

Applications

As their name suggests, complex fractions arise in some fairly complex situations.

E X A M P L E

Fast-food workers

A survey of college students found that 12 of the female students had jobs and 23 of

the male students had jobs. It was also found that 14 of the female students worked

in fast-food restaurants and 16 of the male students worked in fast-food restaurants.

If equal numbers of male and female students were surveyed, then what fraction of

the working students worked in fast-food restaurants?

Solution

Let x represent the number of males surveyed. The number of females surveyed is

also x. The total number of students working in fast-food restaurants is

1

1

x x.

4

6

The total number of working students in the survey is

1

2

x x.

2

3

So the fraction of working students who work in fast-food restaurants is

1

1

x x

4

6

1

2 .

x x

2

3

The LCD of the denominators 2, 3, 4, and 6 is 12. Multiply the numerator and

denominator by 12 to eliminate the fractions as follows:

1

1

1

1

x x

x x 12

4

6

4

6

1

2

1

2

x x

x x 12

2

3

2

3

3x 2x

Distributive property

6x 8x

5x

Combine like terms.

14x

5

Reduce.

14

So 154 (or about 36%) of the working students work in fast-food restaurants.

WARM-UPS

True or false? Explain your answer.

2. The LCD for the denominators a b, 2b 2a, and 6 is 6a 6b.

4117

is a complex fraction.

3. The fraction

798 3

5. The largest common denominator for the fractions 12, 13, and 14 is 24.

358

(736)

Chapter 7

Rational Expressions

WARM-UPS

(continued)

1 x

2

1

2 3

b

a) 1 1

b) 2

5

4 5

a

1

x

2

c)

3

x

2

1 1

2 3

d)

1

1

2

7. To simplify (b), we multiply the numerator and denominator by aabb.

x1

.

8. The complex fraction (c) is equivalent to 2

2x 3

7.5

EXERCISES

the answers to these questions. Use complete sentences.

1. What is a complex fraction?

1 1

1 1

2 3

3 4

3. 1 1

4. 1 1

3 6

4 2

2 5 1

2 2 1

5 6 2

5 9 3

5. 1 1

6. 1 1

1

2

2 3 15

3 5 15

1

1

3

1

2

12

7.

8.

3

1

5

1

4

12

1 2

2 1

1

3

9 6

6 3

9.

10.

1

5

1

3

1

2

15 10

18 3

1 3

1 3

x 2

a b

11.

12.

3 1

1 3

4 x

b a

3

3

4

5

y

a

13. 1

14.

2

3

1

a

y

2 5

1 2

a 3

2 x

15.

16. 3 3

1

2

3 2

a a

x

3

1

2b b

17.

3 1

2

4 b

3

4

2w 3w

18.

1

5

4w 9w

1

3

2

1

a3

y1

19.

20.

1

1

3

3

a3

y1

7.5

4

x

x2

21.

x1

x

x2

x6

x

x1

22.

x 15

x

x1

1

5

3x

23.

1

2

x3

2

x

x5

24. 3

x

1

5x

5

1

a1

25.

2

3

1a

2

1

3 9x

26.

1

1

6 x9

1

4

m3 m

27.

3

1

m3 m

1

4

y3 y

28.

2

1

y y3

30.

1

1

ab ab

31.

1

1

ba ba

1

1

2x 2x

32.

1

1

x2 x2

2x 9

6

33. 2x 3

34.

9

35.

3x 6y

3

xy

a2 2a 24

a1

37.

a2 a 12

(a 1)2

39.

x

x1

1

1

x2 1 x 1

(737)

359

y2 3y 18

y2 4

38.

y2 5y 6

y2

40.

a

a2 b2

1

1

ab ab

41. Sophomore math. A survey of college sophomores

showed that 56 of the males were taking a mathematics

class. One-third of the males were enrolled in calculus,

and 15 of the females were enrolled in calculus. If just as

many males as females were surveyed, then what fraction of the surveyed students taking mathematics were

enrolled in calculus? Rework this problem assuming

that the number of females in the survey was twice the

number of males.

1

3

x2 x3

2

3

w1 w1

29.

4

5

w1 w1

2x 4y

xy2

Complex Fractions

2

3

x3 x2

the undergraduate students commute, and 13 of the

graduate students commute. One-tenth of the undergraduate students drive more than 40 miles daily,

and 16 of the graduate students drive more than 40 miles

daily. If there are twice as many undergraduate students

as there are graduate students, then what fraction of the

commuters drive more than 40 miles daily?

a5

12

a2

15

ab b2

4ab5

36.

ab

24

6a b

360

(738)

Chapter 7

Rational Expressions

43. Exploration. Simplify

1

1

,

, and

1

1

1 1

1

2

1

2

1

1

1

1

2

a) Are these fractions getting larger or smaller as the

fractions become more complex?

b) Continuing the pattern, find the next two complex

fractions and simplify them.

c) Now what can you say about the values of all five

complex fractions?

7.6

In this

section

Expressions

Extraneous Solutions

writing the numerator and denominator as single fractions and then dividing them or by multiplying the numerator and denominator by the LCD. Simplify the complex fraction

4

6

2

xy

xy

2

4

2 2

x

xy

by using each of these methods. Compare the number of

steps used in each method, and determine which method

requires fewer steps.

RATIONAL EXPRESSIONS

expressions. In this section you will learn how to solve equations that involve rational expressions, and in Sections 7.7 and 7.8 you will solve problems using these

equations.

We solved some equations involving fractions in Section 2.3. In that section the

equations had only integers in the denominators. Our first step in solving those

equations was to multiply by the LCD to eliminate all of the denominators.

E X A M P L E

2

1

.

Solve 12 x

3 6

helpful

hint

to convert each fraction into

an equivalent fraction with a

common denominator here.

Since we can multiply both

sides of an equation by any

expression we choose, we

choose to multiply by the

LCD. This tactic eliminates

the fractions in one step.

Solution

The LCD for 2, 3, and 6 is 6. Multiply each side of the equation by 6:

1 x2 1

3

2

6

1 x2

1

6 6

2

3

6

2

1

1

x2

6 6 6

2

6

3

3 2(x 2) 1

3 2x 4 1

2x 6

x3

Original equation

Distributive property

Simplify. Enclose x 2 in parentheses.

Distributive property

Subtract 7 from each side.

Divide each side by 2.

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