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Lesson 1: Basic Understanding and

Operations of Complex Numbers (slides

Lesson 2: Geometric understanding of
addition and subtraction (slides ?-?)
Lesson 3: Applications (slides ?-?)

Module on Complex Numbers
Click on the picture to watch the
Video Annenberg
Why do we need new numbers?
The hardest thing about working with complex numbers
is understanding why you might want to. Before
introducing complex numbers, let's backup and look at
simpler examples of the need to deal with new numbers.
If you are like most people, initially number meant whole
number, 0,1,2,3,... Whole numbers make sense. They
provide a way to answer questions of the form "How
many ... ?" You also learned about the operations of
addition and subtraction, and you found that while
subtraction is a perfectly good operation, some
subtraction problems, like 3 - 5, don't have answers if
we only work with whole numbers.
Lesson 1: Basic Understanding and Operations of Complex
Then you find that if you are willing to work
with integers, ...,-2, -1, 0, 1, 2, ..., then all
subtraction problems do have answers!
Furthermore, by considering examples such
as temperature scales, you see that negative
numbers often make sense.
Now that we have fixed subtraction we will
deal with division. Some, in fact most, division
problems do not have answers that are
integers. For example, 3 2 is not an integer.
We need new numbers! Now we have rational
numbers (fractions).
There is more to this story. There are
problems with square roots and other
operations, but we will not get into that here.
The point is that you have had to expand your
idea of number on several occasions, and
now we are going to do that again.
The "problem" that leads to complex numbers
concerns solutions of equations.
What if we want to find a number that when multiplied
it by itself equals -1?"
Or can you solve the equation x
+ 4 = 0 for x?
The need to extend the real numbers was prompted
by the desire to solve problems like the following,
which appears in the 1545 book Ars Magna by
Divide 10 into two parts whose product is 40.
To solve this problem, Cardano needed to solve the
x(10-x)=40, which is equivalent to x
The solution of the equation requires to be a
number. But -15 does not have a square root that is a
real number. To overcome this barrier, a new number
system was invented.
In the real number system, the square root of a
negative number does not exist. That's because
there are no real numbers whose squares are
However, you can take the square root of a
negative number if you are willing to use a non-
real number to do it. This new number was
invented (discovered?) more than 400 years ago.
It was called "i", standing for "imaginary",
because i wasn't "real".
Imaginary number:

The imaginary number i is defined to be i = 1
Then ( )
1 1 = =
But beware of the following: ( )
( )
1 1 1 1 = = = =
But i already squares to 1. So it cannot also square
to 1. This points out an important detail: when dealing
with imaginary numbers, you gain something (the
ability to deal with negatives inside square roots), but
you also lose something (some of the convenient
rules you have when dealing with square roots).
Lacking these rules, we make the following definition:
If x is a positive real number, then


You can check our answers on a calculator which
permits complex number arithmetic. The TI-84 is one
such calculator, and we will use it throughout this
module. After turning it on, press the MODE key.
Move down to REAL and over to a + bi. With the
cursor blinking over a + bi, press ENTER to save
this complex mode of arithmetic. Now go back to the
home screen by pressing 2ND QUIT. You are ready
to take the square roots of negative numbers. Try it
on the examples above!

= x i x
= = 9 3 18 3 2 i i
Powers of i:
We have seen that . It then follows that

1 =
3 2
4 2 2
5 4
6 2 4
7 3 4
8 4 4
( 1)( 1) 1
1 1 1
1 1 1
i i i i i
i i i
i i i i i
i i i
i i i i i
i i i
= = =
= = =
= = =
= = =
= = =
= = =
Notice that the powers of i cycle around four numbers:
i, -1, -i, 1
If the exponent is a multiple of 4, the power equals 1.
For example,

To calculate any high power of i, you can convert it to a
lower power by taking the closest multiple of 4 which is
no larger than the exponent and subtracting this
multiple from the exponent. For example,

You can confirm these answers by calculator: The i
key is found in the middle of the bottom row. To
compute i to the power 27, press 2ND i ^27 ENTER.
Your answer should be i, but perhaps you instead got
something like -3E-13 - i. What is going on here? The
real part of this result is -3 times 10 to the power -13,
which is within machine roundoff error of zero. So, you
may assume that the calculator has given an
approximation to 0 i; in other words, -i.

1 =

i i i i i i
27 24 3 24 3 3
= = = =
Pause and practice-1

First compute these by the rules above, then
check answers on your calculator.

55 62 73
( ) ( ) ( ) a i b i c i
Answer: (a) i (b) -1 (c) i
Complex numbers:
What if we want to combine a real number with an
imaginary number? We could say that 3 + 4i is a
number but it has more parts to it than a normal
number. We call it a complex number.
Every complex number can be written in the form a +
bi, where a and b are real numbers, called the real
part and the imaginary part of the complex number,
For example, 2 + 3i is a complex number, with real
part 2 and imaginary part 3.

It's as though our imaginary number 'i' isn't on the
number line, but we must be able to put it
somewhere. And what about 2i and 3i and -7i?
We must be able to put them all somewhere. Why
don't we make our imaginary number line
perpendicular to the real number line through the
origin. then not only will we have a place for
imaginary numbers like 5i and -3i but also for
complex numbers like 2+4i and -2 - 5i. Its like we
now have a visual way for looking at complex
A complex number can be visually
represented as an ordered pair of numbers
specifying a point in the xy-plane. This point
is the tip of a vector emanating from the
origin, and this vector also represents the
complex number.

Below is a graph of the vector representing the
2 + 3i . Note that the tip of the vector has coordinates
(2, 3).

In general, any complex number a + bi can be plotted in
the xy-plane (also called the complex plane) as the
point having coordinates (a, b). This point is the tip of
a vector emanating from the origin. Important special
cases: a pure real number is plotted on the x-axis,
and a pure imaginary number is plotted on the y-axis.

Arithmetic of complex numbers:
Given two complex numbers, we now define how
to add, subtract, multiply, and divide them. We
want to do this in a natural way so that the usual
rules for arithmetic of real numbers continue to be
valid for complex numbers. In particular, we want
addition and multiplication to be commutative,
associative, and distributive. Since the complex
number a + bi looks a bit like the linear
polynomial a + bx, lets use our knowledge of
polynomials as motivation. So, to add, subtract,
or multiply complex numbers, we simply combine
like terms as is seen in the following examples:

Addition example:

Subtraction example:

( ) ( )
( ) ( )
2 4 3
2 3 4
5 3
+ +
= + +
= +
i i
i i
( ) ( )
( ) ( )
2 4 3
2 4 3
2 3 4
1 5
= + +
= + +
= +
i i
i i
i i
Multiplication example:

Note that we replaced by -1 in the above

( )( )
( )
2 4 3
6 2 12 4
6 10 4 1
6 4 10
10 10
= +
= +
= + +
= +
i i
i i i
Pause and practice-2
Add, subtract, and multiply the complex numbers
and .

First do these problems by hand, then check your
results by calculator.

5 i 2 3 + i
What about division?
If the denominator is pure imaginary, we can
multiple by to eliminate the i in the
denominator, as is seen in this example:

This was simple enough, but what if you have
something more complicated, such as

In order to eliminate the i in the denominator, we
make use of the conjugate.


1 1
1 i i
i = =


5 2
3 4
The conjugate of a complex number a
+ bi:
The conjugate of a complex number a + bi is the
same number, but with the opposite sign in the
middle: a bi. For example, the conjugate of 3 +
4i is 3 4i.
The multiplication by conjugates produces a sum
of squares. You should pause to verify this fact:

This is similar to the more familiar difference of

( )( ) a bi a bi a b + = +
2 2

( )( ) a b a b a b + =
2 2
Division example:

Note that in the first step we multiplied both numerator
and denominator by the conjugate of the denominator.
In the last step, note how the fraction was split into
two pieces. This is because, technically speaking, a
complex number is expressed as a sum of two parts:
a + bi.
To check this example on your calculator, enter
(5+2i)(3+4i) to get .92 - .56i. If you prefer fractions
over decimals, press MATH FRAC ENTER.

5 2
3 4
5 2
3 4
3 4
3 4
15 20 6 8
9 12 12 16
23 14


i i i
i i i
Pause and Practice -3
Divide: (3 + 4i) (5 2i) by hand, and then
check your answer by calculator.

Modulus (or, Absolute Value):
We have seen how complex numbers can be
represented by points in the complex plane.
Unlike the real numbers, there is not a natural
way to order them. For example, 3 < 4, but how
would you compare 3 + 2i and 4 + i? We do this
by computing the distance each point is from the
origin. Using the distance formula,

The modulus (or, absolute value ) of a complex
number a + bi is defined to be its distance to the
origin, and is denoted by

Note that this definition agrees with the definition
of absolute value of a real number.

3 2 13 4 1 17
2 2 2 2
+ = + = ,

a bi a b + = +
2 2
In our example, we would say that the modulus
of 3 + 2i is less than the modulus of 4 + i.
You can check your answers on the calculator
using abs(a+ib), as seen in the following
Select MATH NUM abs(3+2i) ENTER, giving a
decimal approximation to the square root of 13.
Since this number is irrational, you cannot
convert it to a fraction using FRAC.

Pause and practice-4
For each of the following complex numbers, plot
the complex number as a point in the complex
plane, connect the point to the origin by a
segment, and compute the modulus (first by
hand, then by calculator) to obtain the length of
this segment.

(a) 3 + 4i (b) -5 + 12i (c) 8 6i

Lesson 1 - Quiz
Try to answer each question twice,
without a calculator and then with a


Lesson 1 - Quiz
3. Draw the vector representing 2-i .


Lesson 1 - Quiz

Answers: 1(b), 2(a), 4(c), 5(a), 6(b), 7(d)

In this discussion, it will be convenient to denote
a complex number by a single variable name.

Lesson 2: Geometric understanding of addition and
Let w = a + bi and z = c + di.
If O denotes the origin, then the following four
points form vertices of a parallelogram: O, w, z,
and w + z.
For example, if w = 2 + i and z = 1 + 2i, then
w + z = 3 + 3i. It is easy to see that (0, 0), (2, 1),
(1, 2), and (3, 3) form vertices of a parallelogram.
The points (0, 0) and (3, 3) are endpoints of one
diagonal, while (2, 1) and (1, 2) are endpoints of
the other diagonal.
In general, O and w + z are
endpoints of one diagonal,
while w and z are endpoints of
the other diagonal.
Please click the button
to ??.

Pause and practice-5
Sketch the parallelogram formed by the complex
w = 1 + 2i , z = -2 + I , origin and w+z.
Is this a rectangle? a square?

Also confirm it with the applet

What about subtraction?
Once again, a parallelogram is formed: by the
four points: O, w, z, and w z. However, in this
case O and w are endpoints of one diagonal,
while z and w - z are endpoints of the other

Try with the applet
Applet for
Pause and practice-5
O and w are endpoints of one diagonal, while z
and w - z are endpoints of the other diagonal.
Confirm this fact in the case where w = 1 + 2i and
z = -2 + i.
And check with the applet

Applet for
Complex numbers in polar
In order to gain a geometric understanding of
multiplication, it will be convenient to represent points
in the complex plane using polar coordinates.
Suppose that z = a + bi. Rather than represent this
point using rectangular xy-coordinates, we can use
polar coordinates (r, ). The variable r represents the
distance from point z to the origin, and is the angle
(measured counterclockwise) the vector z makes with
the positive x-axis.

Using the definitions of the trigonometric
functions sine and cosine, we have

Therefore, z can be written

The expression arises so frequently that it is
customary to abbreviate it as cis . Then, z =
r cis is called the polar form of a complex
Since the distance to the origin is represented by
the modulus of z, we have . The angle
is called the argument of z. Note that the
argument can have many possible values, but
any two of them must differ by a multiple of 360

cos ,
sin .
a r
b r
( )
z a bi
r ir
r i
= +
= +
= +
cos sin
cos sin
u u
u u
r z =
u u
There is an interesting connection between the
polar form of a complex number and the real
function , which is the inverse function of
the natural logarithm. In the 18
Leonhard Euler discovered that
, provided that is measured in radians. Thus,
and so the polar form of a complex
number can be written as

The polar form is available on the TI-84
calculator. Simply press MODE, then move the
cursor down to REAL and over to re^ , then
press ENTER. The value of is expressed in
radians or degrees, depending on the MODE

Example: Find the polar form of z = 1 +
The vector represented by z is the segment from
the origin to the point (1, 1). By drawing a sketch,
one easily sees that the argument is 45 degrees (
multiples of 360). In cases which are not clear,
one can use the formula . In our example,
both x and y have value 1.
To obtain the modulus, .
Thus, the polar form is

You can check this answer on your calculator by
1 + i ENTER. Of course, your MODE setting
should already be set to polar: re^

tanu =
2 2
1 1 2 r z = = + =
2cis 45 z =
Example: Find the standard form of z = 2 cis 150.
We make use of the formulas

This gives

We now check this answer on the calculator. Since
there is no cis key, we make use of the key 2ND .
Also, recall that Eulers formula is valid
only in radians. So, we first must convert 150
degrees to radians and enter our expression as
ENTER. This gives the desired result, but
with an approximation to . Note that 2e^(150*i)
ENTER gives a very different (and wrong!) answer.

a r
b r
cos ,
sin .
2 cos 150 3 and 2 sin 150 1. a b = = = =
3 z i = +
Pause and practice-6
Try these by hand, and then check with your

(a) Find the polar form of z = 4 3i.

(b) Find the standard form of z = 2 cis 225.

Geometric understanding of
We now show that the product of two complex
numbers has modulus equal to the product of the
individual moduli and argument equal to the sum of
the individual arguments.
Let w = |w| cis A and z = |z| cis B. Then,
wz = (|w| cis A)( |z| cis B)
= |w||z|(cos A + i sin A)(cos B + i sin B)
= |w||z|(cos A cos B sin A sin B + i sin A cos B + i
cos A sin B)
Using the trigonometric angle sum formulas, this
last expression can be written as

= |w||z|(cos(A + B) + i sin(A + B)).

Thus, the polar form of wz is

wz = |w||z|(cos(A + B) + i sin(A + B)),

which allows us to identify |w||z| as the modulus of
wz, and
A + B as the argument of wz.

Pause and practice-7
Let w = 2i, and let z = 1 + i.
(a) Find the product wz.
(b) Find the modulus of each of w, z, and wz, and
then try to decide how these three moduli are
related to each other. Relate your answers to the
polar forms of all three numbers (Check their
polar forms on your calculator.)
(c) Plot the three points w, z, and wz in the complex
plane, and connect each point to the origin with a
line segment. Try to decide how the angles
between the positive real axis and these three
lines are related to one another. Relate your
answers to the polar forms of all three numbers
(Check their polar forms on your calculator.)

De Moivres Theorem:
We can use the polar form to square a complex number:
where A is the
argument of z.
where A is the argument of z. As you can see, we have
squared the modulus and doubled the argument.
Continuing to multiply a complex number by itself, we get a
result known as de Moivres Theorem:

Example: Simplify .
The modulus of 1 + i is , and we can choose A
= 45 degrees.
Thus, =
= 16 cis(360)
= 16

( )
z z nA =
( )
+ i
( )
2 cis(845)
( )
+ i
Pause and practice-8

After computing by hand as in the previous
example, check your answer by calculator.

( )
3 i +
Roots of complex numbers:
We now use de Moivres Theorem to find roots:
suppose that and we would like to
solve for w in terms of z. Writing the polar forms
of both sides of this equation, we have
or .
Equating the moduli of each side, we have
hence .
Since the arguments of each side are equal (or,
differ by a multiple of 360 degrees), there is an
integer k so that
, hence .

w z
= = 0
( ) w B cis cis
= z A
w nB z A
cis cis =
w z
w z
nB A k = + 360 B
A k
+ 360
We conclude that the polar form of the n
root of
z is

Since k can be any integer, it may appear that
there are infinitely many roots. But since cosine
and sine have period equal to 360, we get
different roots only for k = 0, 1, 2, , n-1: when k
= n, we get the same cis value that we got for k
= 0; when k = n+1, we get the same cis value
that we got for k = 1, etc. We conclude that a
nonzero complex number has exactly n n

z z
A k
n n

| cis
Example: Find the three cube roots of z = -8.
For the modulus, we have . For the
argument, we have A = 180, so that for k = 0, 1,
2, the three values of

are 60, 180, and 300. Thus, the three cube roots of -
8 are: 2 cis 60, 2 cis 180, and 2 cis 300, which are
simplified as:

The first of these three is the principal root, the one
corresponding to k = 0.
You can try to check these answers on your
calculator, but dont expect to get all three answers.
The TI-84 seems to give a real answer, is there is
one. If none of the roots are real, the calculator gives
the principal root. Let us check this for the cube root
of -8. Entering (-8)^(1/3) produces an answer of -2,
which is the real root but not the principal root.

= 8 2
180 360
+ k
1 3 2 1 3 + , ,
Pause and practice-9
Find the four 4
roots of z = -16, and check you
answer on a calculator. You should find that there
are no real roots, so the calculator displays the
principal root:
Lesson 2 - Quiz
1. Let and . Sketch the
parallelogram determined by Also
sketch the parallelogram determined by

2. Find the polar from of .
(a) 2 cis 120 (b) 2 cis 150 (c) 2 cis 210

3. Find the standard form of z = 4 cis 135.
(a) (b) (c)
4. Sketch the vectors representing the two complex
5 cis 45 and 3 cis 90. Sketch and write the
product in polar form.
(a) 15 cis 135 (b) 8 cis 135 (c) 15 cis

5. Explain why

6. The following are the cube roots of i. Which one
is principal?
(a) (b) (c)

Answers: 2(c), 3(b), 4(a), 6(b)
Solving quadratic equations
Remember that the quadratic formula solves the
quadratic equation "ax
+ bx + c = 0" for the
values of x (called zeros of the equation). They
called zeros because they are the values of x that
make y = 0, in the quadratic function y = ax
bx + c.
Recall that a quadratic equation has two, one, or
no real zeros, depending of the sign of the
discriminant , which appears under the square
root in the quadratic formula:

b b ac

Lesson 3: Applications
Two zeros occur when the discriminant is positive.
One zero occurs when the discriminant is zero.
There are no real zeros when the discriminant is
However, there are zeros if we allow complex numbers.
We illustrate by an example.
Example: Find the zeros of , where c
= 0, 1, 2.

In simple cases such as this, it is more convenient to
find zeros by factoring than by use of the quadratic
In the case c = 0, we have ,
so the zeros are 0 and 2, and these are the x-
intercepts of the graph of the parabola .
In the case c = 1, we have , so x =
1 is the only zero, and the graph of the parabola
has it vertex at (1, 0).
In the case c = 2, the quadratic formula gives no real
roots, but two complex roots 1 i. The graph of the
lies above the x-axis and has no x-intercepts.

x x c
2 0 + =
x x x x
2 2 = ( )
y x x =
x x x
2 2
2 1 1 + = ( )
y x x = +
2 1
y x x = +
2 2
Comparison of the roots of 3 quadratic
compare the
three equations
and the
Why the third
doesnt have a
real solution?
Graphically, can
you understand
whether or not
an equation has
a complex root?
Pause and practice-10
For , find values of c which
illustrate each of the cases above.

The example above shows the existence of
polynomials with no real zeros. By contrast,
polynomials always have zeros if we allow
complex numbers:

x x c
4 0 + + =
Fundamental Theorem of
A polynomial equation of degree at least one has at least one zero in the complex number system.

You may wonder why we should care about zeros being complex numbers. You may expect that
they would provide no useful real world information and should be considered as extraneous.

However, Eulers formula

= cos + sin provides a link between the complex

exponential function and the real trigonometric functions sine and cosine, which are used to model
periodic behavior. Such behavior is found in AC (alternating current) circuits and in vibrating or
oscillating systems. These systems are governed by differential equations of the form

+ = 0. Solutions to this equation are exponential functions of the form =

, where
r is a zero of the quadratic equation

+ + = 0. (Those who remember their calculus can check this by plugging =

into the differential equation.) The complex zeros of this quadratic equation give oscillating
solutions via Eulers formula

= cos + sin . The value of r provides information on the

frequency and period of the oscillation. Thus, the complex zeros of a quadratic equation can
provide real world information in certain applications.
Example: Find the zeros of .

Using the quadratic formula, we get



Although the TI-84 calculator has a SOLVE
function, it can find only real zeros. Of course,
you can check if your zeros are correct by
substituting them back into the original equation.

Pause and practice-11
Find the zeros of , and
check your answers by substitution.
Further applications:
Engineers also use complex numbers in analyzing
stresses and strains on beams and in studying resonance
phenomena in structures such as planes and bridges.
Instead of just one differential equation, you may have a
system of many differential equations, which leads to
matrix analysis. The complex numbers come up when you
seek the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of a certain matrix.
The eigenvalues are roots of a certain polynomial equation
associated with this matrix. The matrices may be quite
large, perhaps 1000 by 1000, and the associated
polynomials are of very high degree.

Complex numbers are also used in such fields as digital
signal processing, digital image processing, quantum
mechanics, and fluid dynamics. In this last case, complex
functions are used to describe two-dimensional flow, for
example, flow around a pipe.

In summary, complex numbers are an indispensible tool of

Applets and Links
Arithmetic Operations with Complex Numbers

Addition And Subtraction Of Complex Numbers

Addition and Subtraction Of Complex Numbers

Everything about Complex Numbers:
Multiplication And Division
De Moivre's Theorem
Conjugate Roots Theorem and plotting equations
Content with simple applets: with simple applets

Fractal trip : Download program and install it:

Julia and Mandelbrot Set Explorer

Fractal picture galary:

The mathematics behind fractals are incredibly interesting and captivating. You need to have a grasp on algebra and
some complex number background is preferable. We already described how fractals are created through applying
functions, but never explained any functions and how they work. In this section, we will describe the two most popular
fractal sets and how they work, the Julia set and the Mandelbrot set.
To understand fractals, you need to understand complex numbers. Complex numbers are a way to put two coordinates
(x,y) into one number with two parts. One is a real number, which is any regular number like 3, 8.5, or 12/45. The other
is an imaginary number, which is defined as the square root of a negative number, and is characterized by i (defined as
i^2=-1, therefore i=sqrt -1) times a coefficient.When you take a number and square it, it always becomes positive. So
how do you take the square root of a negative number? You can't, that's why it's called imaginary. So, complex
numbers are made up of a real number plus an imaginary number. Examples include (1+.343i), (pi+343.6i), and (0+3i).
Complex numbers are used in fractals because the real number is used to represent the x coordinate, and the complex
number is used to represent the y coordinate. So, if the computer wanted to iterate (3,8), it would apply the function to
(3+8i). This way, the function is dealing with a number to which most of the mathematical properties such as the
associative and distributive laws can be applied, instead of a set of x and y coordinates. It is important to note that the
complex coordinates are not the same coordinates of the pixel they represent. Pixel coordinates are always from 0 to
the bounds of the screen, usually something like (786, 233). The range we use depends on the fractal, but it is usually
something like x: -3 to 3; y: -2 to 2. Therefore, to apply the function to a pixel, we divide the units into hundreds of tiny
segments, and the computers deal with the tiny fractions.

We must also set a limit of iteration on our fractal. Since the points inside the Mandelbrot set never leave the screen,
we will iterate our function forever if we wait for them to leave our circle. To get around this, we set a limit on the
number of times we will iterate it. If the point is still in our circle after that many iterations, we assume it is part of the
set. The more iterations we use, the more exact and detailed our image will be, but the longer it will take to generate.
When we have done this with every pixel, we have a fractal. Other equations than this one produce different fractals.
Mandelbrot sets are produced the same way as Julia sets, except that c is different for every point. When generating a
Mandelbrot set, c is equal to the point we are determining the color for. We start with 0, the origin. Then we square it
and add c. We square this new value and again add c. When this finally leaves the circle, or when we have reached
our iteration limit, we color the point at the complex coordinate c. Then we move to the next point. C is changed to that
new point, and once again we start with the origin and iterate. Of course there are many other fractals that can be
created with simple equations. If you download Fractint ( , you
can create your own formulas and run them to see what fractals they will produce.

Click on the picture to watch the
Video Annenberg
Watch until 4:33