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MATHEMATICIAN

DATE

BAND

PARABOLAS
ADV PRECALCULUS | PACKER COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE
In class, we previously saw how you can create a parabola from only a single point and a line. We
call this point the focus and the line the directrix. Previously you had only seen parabolas

y ax2 bx c
as the graphs of the algebraic equation
but now we see they have a beautiful
geometric aspect! Now today, instead of starting with a point and a line and finding the parabola
they create, were going to start with a parabola and find the point and line that create it! This is
the backwards question.
1. Were going to start fairly simple. Were going to assume our parabola has its vertex at the

y 0.2x2
origin.1 Okay, lets have the parabola

Let us call the height of the focus (above the origin) p.


(a) In the diagram below, label the coordinates of the focus, write the equation of the directrix,
and find the coordinates of the drawn point on the directrix (the drawn point is directly below the
point (4,3.2).

1 If the parabola doesnt go through the origin, what were doing will still work. All you have to do
is take your parabola, translate it so that the parabolas vertex is at the origin. Then you find the
focus and directrix as were learning to do today. And then finally we translate the parabola back
to its original position making sure you also translate the focus and directrix. See?! Simple!
1

(b) Now based on the work we did previously, we know that two distances must be equal for us
to have a parabola with a particular focus and directrix. Find those distances, set them equal to
each other, and solve for p.

y 0.2x2
2. As noted parabola in the previous question was

y 0.2(x 2)2 3
Find the focus and directrix of the new parabola
footnote on the previous page.

. If you get stuck, read the

3. Now were going to solve this problem generally. Again we are given a parabola with vertex at
the origin. This time, we dont know the precise equation we are going to try to come up with a
general formula for any parabola with vertex at the origin. So I suppose the best I can say is the

y ax2
equation is

(where

is some non-zero number).

We are trying to find the vertex and directrix. But since we dont know the equation, the best we
can do is say that some randomly chosen point (X,Y) exists on this parabola.

(a) As before, let us call the height of the focus (above the origin) p. In the diagram above, label
the coordinates of the focus, write the equation of the directrix, and find the coordinates of the
drawn point on the directrix (the drawn point is directly below the randomly chosen point (X,Y).
(b) Find p.

(c) Wait a second Wait a golly gee second! I know more information about my parabola. The
randomly chosen point isnt (X,Y). If I know the x-coordinate, I also know the y-coordinate.
Instead of (X,Y), I can write the point on the parabola as (X, _______).

Now that weve done that, rethink the formula for p.

y a(x h)2 k

y ax2
(c) Now lets move the parabola. So instead of
What is the new focus and the new directrix?

we have

y 2x2
4. (a) Find the focus and directrix of the parabola

y 2(x 1)2 3
(b) Find the focus and directrix of the parabola

y 0.3x2 1.2x 1
5. Find the focus and directrix of the parabola: