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College Algebra

Supplement: Reciprocal and Squared Reciprocal Functions.

BasicGraphsandAsymptotes:
For this supplement, we want to look at the transformations of the graphs of the reciprocal function, y = 1x , and the squared reciprocal
function, y = 1
x2
, which are basic rational functions. So first lets define rational functions.

Rational Functions
f (x) is a rational function,
if and only if
it can be written in the form of
P(x)
f (x) = Q(x)
where P(x) and Q(x) are polynomials.

The rational function f (x) = P(x)

Q(x)
is defined
when Q(x) 0.

Thus, a rational function is a function defined by a rational expression. Also as well see, any combination of transformations that has
been covered in the book when applied to the graphs of y = 1x or y = x12 will lead to another rational function. You will see the
graphing of more general rational functions in a higher math class.

Lets start with the graph of y = 1x . Keeping in mind that x 0 ,and plotting a few points will lead us to:

1
Partial Graph of y = x

x y
-2 - 12
-1 -1
- 12 -2
1
2
2
1 1
2 1
2

So, what happens as x grows to ? This case is sometimes written as x and read x approaches . Also, what about as
x - ? Lets look at the following tables.

x 1 10 100 1000 10000 100000 1000000

y 1 0.1 0.01 0.001 0.0001 0.00001 0.000001

x -1 -10 -100 -1000 -10000 -100000 -1000000

y -1 -0.1 -0.01 -0.001 -0.0001 -0.00001 -0.000001

Therefore, as x get further from 0, the y gets closer to 0. For the positive numbers, we can think of the old pie analogy. If you divide
1 pie among more and more people, each person gets less and less until each person is essentially getting no pie. Thus, as x ,
y 0 . This forms a horizontal asymptote of y = 0 , the x-axis.

Horizontal Asymptotes (H.A.)

The line y = k is a horizontal asymptote of y = f (x) ,
if and only if
y k as either x or x - .

College Algebra Supplement: Reciprocal and Squared Reciprocal Functions. Page #1 of 4

Now, what happens as x 0 ? Since 0 isnt in the domain of y = 1x , we cant just plug it in, yet y = 1
x
is defined for any number
except 0, and thus, its defined immediately to the right and immediately to the left of 0. So lets look at some tables for this.

x 1 0.1 0.01 0.001 0.0001 0.00001 0.000001

y 1 10 100 1000 10000 100000 1000000

x -1 -0.1 -0.01 -0.001 -0.0001 -0.00001 -0.000001

y -1 -10 -100 -1000 -10000 -100000 -1000000

This time whether positive or negative, as x gets smaller and smaller, y gets larger and larger. Thus, as x approaches 0 from the right,
denoted x 0+ , y approaches , y . Also, as x approaches 0 from the left, denoted x 0 , y approaches - , y - . This
forms a vertical asymptote of x = 0 , the y-axis.

Vertical Asymptotes (V.A.)

The line x = h is a vertical asymptote of y = f (x) ,
if and only if
either y or y - as x h from either side.

Finally, since 0 isnt in the domain, there is no y-intercept. Also since 1

x
is never 0, there is no x-intercept. Plus, because
f (-x) = 1
-x
= - = -f (x) , the function is odd and hence symmetric about the origin.
1
x

Putting all of this together we get:

1
Graph of The Reciprocal Function y = x

No x-int.
No y-int.
V.A.: x = 0
H. A.: y = 0

Notice that if you only look at a calculators graph, like the one to the right of y = 1
x 2.3
+ 1.5 , it can be very
misleading. First, the calculator isnt going to graph either asymptote. So if you dont know where they are,
all you can do from the calculator is guess. Second, the graph appears to stop going up, as well as down,
near the vertical asymptote, but we know the graph continues from these points. Finally, the graph can
appear to be touching its horizontal asymptote, yet we know that these graphs dont do that. Therefore, you
have to know what is happening in the graph and not just copy from the calculator.

Though a similar type of analysis we get for y = 1

x2
:

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Graph of The Squared Reciprocal Function y = x2

No x-int.
No y-int.
V.A.: x = 0
H. A.: y = 0
( f (-x) = (-x1) 2 = 1
x2
= f (x) )

College Algebra Supplement: Reciprocal and Squared Reciprocal Functions. Page #2 of 4

Transformations:
Remember from the book that:
Changing y = f(x) to Changes the graph by a
y = f (x h) Horizontal Shift
y = a f (x), where a > 0 Vertical Stretch/Shrink
y = -f (x) Vertical Reflection
y = f (x) + k Vertical Shift

Vertical Reflection Vertical Shift Up 7

V.A. : x = -5
H.A. : y = 7

Note that for these graphs, you should show the asymptotes as dashed lines, if they arent on an axis, plot at least 1 point on each side
of the V.A. , and satisfy any other criterion that your instructor requires.

College Algebra Supplement: Reciprocal and Squared Reciprocal Functions. Page #3 of 4

Example#2: Graph y = 2
(x 1)2
3 . Identify its asymptotes.

Basic Graph Horizontal Shift Right 1 Vertical stretch by factor of 2 Vertical Shift Down 3

V.A. : x = 1
H.A. : y = -3

Note that for these 2 basic graphs, the horizontal reflection isnt needed since either
1
-x
= - 1x and thus, we can treat it as a vertical reflection, or
1
(-x )2
= 1
x2
and we can drop the reflection.

Example#3: Identify the asymptotes of y = 7

3x 4
19 .

First, one way to find the horizontal shift is to make the coefficient on x be 1 by dividing the top and bottom of that fraction by 3.
7
y= 7
3x 4
19 = (7)/3
(3x 4)/3
19 = 3
x 43
19
Now, we can find the horizontal shift is right 4
3
. Thus, the vertical asymptote is x = 34 .
Alternately, you could have also found the vertical asymptote by setting the denominator with x to 0 and solving for x.
3x 4 = 0
3x = 4
x= 4
3

Plus, the vertical shift is down 1

9
or - 19 . Hence, the horizontal asymptote is y = - 19 .