# How To Find Critical Numbers Of A Fraction

Finding critical numbers of a fraction can be a challenging task for many students. However, with the right approach and understanding of the concept, it becomes easier to identify these significant points. In this article, we will discuss the step-by-step process to find critical numbers of a fraction and provide useful tips and examples to facilitate your understanding.

## What are Critical Numbers?

Critical numbers are the values of a fraction at which its derivative is either zero or undefined. These numbers play a crucial role in determining the behavior of the fraction, such as local extrema (maximum or minimum points) and points of discontinuity. By identifying critical numbers, we can gain insights into the fraction’s graph and make informed decisions about its properties.

### Step 1: Find the Derivative of the Fraction

The first step is to find the derivative of the given fraction. The derivative expresses the rate of change of the fraction with respect to its variable. For example, if we have the fraction f(x) = (x^2 + 2x – 3)/(x – 1), we need to differentiate this expression to obtain its derivative.

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Using the quotient rule, we can express the derivative f'(x) as [(x – 1)(2x + 2) – (x^2 + 2x – 3)(1)] / (x – 1)^2.

### Step 2: Set the Derivative Equal to Zero

In this step, we equate the derived expression f'(x) to zero and solve for x. By doing so, we identify the x-values at which the derivative is zero. These points are called critical numbers because they can potentially be the location of local extrema or points of inflection.

Continuing with the previous example, we set the derivative f'(x) from step 1 equal to zero:

(x – 1)(2x + 2) – (x^2 + 2x – 3)(1) / (x – 1)^2 = 0

Simplifying the equation will lead us to the next step.

### Step 3: Solve the Equation

In this step, we solve the equation obtained from step 2 to find the critical numbers. To do this, we simplify the equation and solve for x. In some cases, the equation may require factoring, using the quadratic formula, or other algebraic techniques to find the solutions.

Continuing with the previous example, let’s expand the equation:

(x – 1)(2x + 2) – (x^2 + 2x – 3)(1) = 0

2x^2 – 2x + 2 – x^2 – 2x + 3 = 0

x^2 – 4x + 5 = 0

Factoring or applying the quadratic formula allows us to find the solutions for x, which will be our critical numbers.

### Step 4: Check for Undefined Values

In some cases, the denominator of the fraction may become zero at certain x-values, resulting in an undefined fraction. To identify these points, we need to check if any of the critical numbers found in step 3 cause the denominator to be zero.

For example, using the fraction f(x) = (x^2 + 2x – 3)/(x – 1) from the previous example, we would need to determine if the critical number(s) found in step 3 cause the denominator (x – 1) to be zero.

### Step 5: Analyze the Results

After identifying the critical numbers and checking for undefined values, we can analyze the results to gain insights into the fraction’s behavior.

If the critical number(s) is/are valid and not causing the fraction to be undefined, we can further examine the fraction’s behavior at those points. By evaluating the fraction at the critical numbers and their neighboring points, we can determine if they correspond to local extrema (maximum or minimum points).

If the critical number(s) cause the fraction to be undefined, it indicates a potential point of discontinuity. Further analysis is required to identify the behavior of the fraction around these points.

## Example:

Let’s consider the fraction f(x) = (3x^2 – 8x + 4)/(x – 2) to demonstrate the step-by-step process of finding critical numbers.

### Step 1: Find the Derivative of the Fraction

Applying the quotient rule, we differentiate f(x) to obtain:

f'(x) = [(x – 2)(6x – 8) – (3x^2 – 8x + 4)(1)] / (x – 2)^2

### Step 2: Set the Derivative Equal to Zero

Equate the derivative f'(x) to zero:

[(x – 2)(6x – 8) – (3x^2 – 8x + 4)(1)] / (x – 2)^2 = 0

### Step 3: Solve the Equation

Simplify and solve the equation:

(x – 2)(6x – 8) – (3x^2 – 8x + 4)(1) = 0

6x^2 – 20x + 16 – 3x^2 + 8x – 4 = 0

3x^2 – 12x + 12 = 0

Using the quadratic formula, x = (-b ± √(b^2 – 4ac)) / 2a, we find the solutions:

x = (12 ± √((-12)^2 – 4(3)(12))) / 2(3)

x = (12 ± √(144 – 144)) / 6

x = (12 ± √0) / 6

x = (12 ± 0) / 6

x = 2

In this example, the only critical number is x = 2.

### Step 4: Check for Undefined Values

Since the denominator in the fraction is (x – 2), we need to check if x = 2 causes the fraction to be undefined. In this case, substituting x = 2 into the fraction results in a division by zero error, indicating a point of discontinuity.

### Step 5: Analyze the Results

By evaluating the fraction at the critical number x = 2 and its neighboring points, we can determine the behavior of the fraction:

f(1) = (3(1)^2 – 8(1) + 4)/(1 – 2) = -5

f(2) = undefined (point of discontinuity)

f(3) = (3(3)^2 – 8(3) + 4)/(3 – 2) = 10

The fraction has a discontinuity at x = 2, and it changes from negative to positive behavior when approaching x = 2 from opposite sides. This indicates that x = 2 is a point where the function’s behavior changes, but it is not a local extremum.

## FAQ

### Q: Can a fraction have multiple critical numbers?

A: Yes, a fraction can have multiple critical numbers. These points are crucial in determining the local extrema and points of inflection of the fraction.

### Q: Are all critical numbers points of local extrema?

A: No, not all critical numbers are points of local extrema. Critical numbers can also correspond to points of inflection or potential points of discontinuity.

### Q: How do I check if a critical number causes the fraction to be undefined?

A: Substitute the critical number into the denominator of the fraction. If the result is zero, it indicates a point of discontinuity or an undefined value for the fraction at that point.

### Q: Can I find critical numbers for any type of fraction?

A: Yes, critical numbers can be found for any type of fraction, provided it is differentiable. However, for more complex and non-standard fractions, finding the derivative and solving for critical numbers may require additional algebraic techniques.

In conclusion, finding critical numbers of a fraction involves differentiating the fraction, setting the derivative equal to zero, solving the equation for x, checking for undefined values, and analyzing the results. By following this step-by-step process and practicing with various examples, you will develop proficiency in finding critical numbers and understanding their significance in determining a fraction’s behavior.

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