Graphs and Functions
Find the Equation of a Line
Learning Objectives
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Find an equation of the line given the slope and
- Find an equation of the line given the slope and a point
- Find an equation of the line given two points
- Find an equation of a line parallel to a given line
- Find an equation of a line perpendicular to a given line
Before you get started, take this readiness quiz.
How do online companies know that “you may also like” a particular item based on something you just ordered? How can economists know how a rise in the minimum wage will affect the unemployment rate? How do medical researchers create drugs to target cancer cells? How can traffic engineers predict the effect on your commuting time of an increase or decrease in gas prices? It’s all mathematics.
The physical sciences, social sciences, and the business world are full of situations that can be modeled with linear equations relating two variables. To create a mathematical model of a linear relation between two variables, we must be able to find the equation of the line. In this section, we will look at several ways to write the equation of a line. The specific method we use will be determined by what information we are given.
Find an Equation of the Line Given the Slope and y-Intercept
We can easily determine the slope and intercept of a line if the equation is written in slope-intercept form, Now we will do the reverse—we will start with the slope and y-intercept and use them to find the equation of the line.
Find the equation of a line with slope and y-intercept
Since we are given the slope and y-intercept of the line, we can substitute the needed values into the slope-intercept form,
Name the slope. | |
Name the y-intercept. | |
Substitute the values into | |
Find the equation of a line with slope and y-intercept
Find the equation of a line with slope and y-intercept
Sometimes, the slope and intercept need to be determined from the graph.
Find the equation of the line shown in the graph.
We need to find the slope and y-intercept of the line from the graph so we can substitute the needed values into the slope-intercept form,
To find the slope, we choose two points on the graph.
The y-intercept is and the graph passes through
Find the slope, by counting the rise and run. | |
Find the y-intercept. | |
Substitute the values into | |
Find the equation of the line shown in the graph.
Find the equation of the line shown in the graph.
Find an Equation of the Line Given the Slope and a Point
Finding an equation of a line using the slope-intercept form of the equation works well when you are given the slope and y-intercept or when you read them off a graph. But what happens when you have another point instead of the y-intercept?
We are going to use the slope formula to derive another form of an equation of the line.
Suppose we have a line that has slope m and that contains some specific point and some other point, which we will just call We can write the slope of this line and then change it to a different form.
This format is called the point-slope form of an equation of a line.
The point-slope form of an equation of a line with slope m and containing the point is:
We can use the point-slope form of an equation to find an equation of a line when we know the slope and at least one point. Then, we will rewrite the equation in slope-intercept form. Most applications of linear equations use the the slope-intercept form.
Find an equation of a line with slope that contains the point Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Find the equation of a line with slope and containing the point
Find the equation of a line with slope and containing the point
We list the steps for easy reference.
- Identify the slope.
- Identify the point.
- Substitute the values into the point-slope form,
- Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Find an equation of a horizontal line that contains the point Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Every horizontal line has slope 0. We can substitute the slope and points into the point-slope form,
Identify the slope. | |
Identify the point. | |
Substitute the values into | |
Simplify. | |
Write in slope-intercept form. | It is in y-form, but could be written |
Did we end up with the form of a horizontal line,
Find the equation of a horizontal line containing the point
Find the equation of a horizontal line containing the point
Find an Equation of the Line Given Two Points
When real-world data is collected, a linear model can be created from two data points. In the next example we’ll see how to find an equation of a line when just two points are given.
So far, we have two options for finding an equation of a line: slope-intercept or point-slope. When we start with two points, it makes more sense to use the point-slope form.
But then we need the slope. Can we find the slope with just two points? Yes. Then, once we have the slope, we can use it and one of the given points to find the equation.
Find an equation of a line that contains the points and Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Find the equation of a line containing the points and
Find the equation of a line containing the points and
The steps are summarized here.
- Find the slope using the given points.
- Choose one point.
- Substitute the values into the point-slope form:
- Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Find an equation of a line that contains the points and Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Again, the first step will be to find the slope.
This tells us it is a vertical line. Both of our points have an x-coordinate of So our equation of the line is Since there is no y, we cannot write it in slope-intercept form.
You may want to sketch a graph using the two given points. Does your graph agree with our conclusion that this is a vertical line?
Find the equation of a line containing the points and
Find the equaion of a line containing the points and
We have seen that we can use either the slope-intercept form or the point-slope form to find an equation of a line. Which form we use will depend on the information we are given.
To Write an Equation of a Line | ||
---|---|---|
If given: | Use: | Form: |
Slope and y-intercept | slope-intercept | |
Slope and a point | point-slope | |
Two points | point-slope |
Find an Equation of a Line Parallel to a Given Line
Suppose we need to find an equation of a line that passes through a specific point and is parallel to a given line. We can use the fact that parallel lines have the same slope. So we will have a point and the slope—just what we need to use the point-slope equation.
First, let’s look at this graphically.
This graph shows We want to graph a line parallel to this line and passing through the point
We know that parallel lines have the same slope. So the second line will have the same slope as That slope is We’ll use the notation to represent the slope of a line parallel to a line with slope m. (Notice that the subscript || looks like two parallel lines.)
The second line will pass through and have
To graph the line, we start at and count out the rise and run.
With (or ), we count out the rise 2 and the run 1. We draw the line, as shown in the graph.
Do the lines appear parallel? Does the second line pass through
We were asked to graph the line, now let’s see how to do this algebraically.
We can use either the slope-intercept form or the point-slope form to find an equation of a line. Here we know one point and can find the slope. So we will use the point-slope form.
Find an equation of a line parallel to that contains the point Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Look at graph with the parallel lines shown previously. Does this equation make sense? What is the y-intercept of the line? What is the slope?
Find an equation of a line parallel to the line that contains the point Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Find an equation of a line parallel to the line that contains the point
Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
- Find the slope of the given line.
- Find the slope of the parallel line.
- Identify the point.
- Substitute the values into the point-slope form:
- Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Find an Equation of a Line Perpendicular to a Given Line
Now, let’s consider perpendicular lines. Suppose we need to find a line passing through a specific point and which is perpendicular to a given line. We can use the fact that perpendicular lines have slopes that are negative reciprocals. We will again use the point-slope equation, like we did with parallel lines.
This graph shows Now, we want to graph a line perpendicular to this line and passing through
We know that perpendicular lines have slopes that are negative reciprocals.
We’ll use the notation to represent the slope of a line perpendicular to a line with slope m. (Notice that the subscript looks like the right angles made by two perpendicular lines.)
We now know the perpendicular line will pass through with
To graph the line, we will start at and count out the rise and the run 2. Then we draw the line.
Do the lines appear perpendicular? Does the second line pass through
We were asked to graph the line, now, let’s see how to do this algebraically.
We can use either the slope-intercept form or the point-slope form to find an equation of a line. In this example we know one point, and can find the slope, so we will use the point-slope form.
Find an equation of a line perpendicular to that contains the point Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Find an equation of a line perpendicular to the line that contains the point Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Find an equation of a line perpendicular to the line that contains the point Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
- Find the slope of the given line.
- Find the slope of the perpendicular line.
- Identify the point.
- Substitute the values into the point-slope form,
- Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Find an equation of a line perpendicular to that contains the point Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Again, since we know one point, the point-slope option seems more promising than the slope-intercept option. We need the slope to use this form, and we know the new line will be perpendicular to This line is vertical, so its perpendicular will be horizontal. This tells us the
Sketch the graph of both lines. On your graph, do the lines appear to be perpendicular?
Find an equation of a line that is perpendicular to the line that contains the point . Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Find an equation of a line that is perpendicular to the line that contains the point Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
In (Figure), we used the point-slope form to find the equation. We could have looked at this in a different way.
We want to find a line that is perpendicular to that contains the point This graph shows us the line and the point
We know every line perpendicular to a vertical line is horizontal, so we will sketch the horizontal line through
Do the lines appear perpendicular?
If we look at a few points on this horizontal line, we notice they all have y-coordinates of So, the equation of the line perpendicular to the vertical line is
Find an equation of a line that is perpendicular to that contains the point Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
The line is a horizontal line. Any line perpendicular to it must be vertical, in the form Since the perpendicular line is vertical and passes through every point on it has an x-coordinate of The equation of the perpendicular line is
You may want to sketch the lines. Do they appear perpendicular?
Find an equation of a line that is perpendicular to the line that contains the point Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Find an equation of a line that is perpendicular to the line that contains the point Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Access these online resources for additional instruction and practice with finding the equation of a line.
Key Concepts
- How to find an equation of a line given the slope and a point.
- Identify the slope.
- Identify the point.
- Substitute the values into the point-slope form,
- Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
- How to find an equation of a line given two points.
- Find the slope using the given points.
- Choose one point.
- Substitute the values into the point-slope form:
- Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
To Write an Equation of a Line If given: Use: Form: Slope and y-intercept slope-intercept Slope and a point point-slope Two points point-slope
- How to find an equation of a line parallel to a given line.
- Find the slope of the given line.
- Find the slope of the parallel line.
- Identify the point.
- Substitute the values into the point-slope form:
- Write the equation in slope-intercept form
- How to find an equation of a line perpendicular to a given line.
- Find the slope of the given line.
- Find the slope of the perpendicular line.
- Identify the point.
- Substitute the values into the point-slope form,
- Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Practice Makes Perfect
Find an Equation of the Line Given the Slope and y-Intercept
In the following exercises, find the equation of a line with given slope and y-intercept. Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
slope 3 and
-intercept
slope 8 and
y-intercept
slope and
-intercept
slope and
-intercept
slope and
-intercept
slope and
-intercept
slope 0 and
-intercept
slope and
-intercept
In the following exercises, find the equation of the line shown in each graph. Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Find an Equation of the Line Given the Slope and a Point
In the following exercises, find the equation of a line with given slope and containing the given point. Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
point
point
point
point
point
point
point
point
Horizontal line containing
Horizontal line containing
Horizontal line containing
Horizontal line containing
Find an Equation of the Line Given Two Points
In the following exercises, find the equation of a line containing the given points. Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
and
and
and
and
and
and
and
and
and
and
and
and
Find an Equation of a Line Parallel to a Given Line
In the following exercises, find an equation of a line parallel to the given line and contains the given point. Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
Find an Equation of a Line Perpendicular to a Given Line
In the following exercises, find an equation of a line perpendicular to the given line and contains the given point. Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line
point
line y-axis,
point
line y-axis,
point
Mixed Practice
In the following exercises, find the equation of each line. Write the equation in slope-intercept form.
Containing the points and
Containing the points and
containing point
containing point
Parallel to the line containing point
Parallel to the line containing point
containing point
containing point
Perpendicular to the line point
Perpendicular to the line y-axis, point
Parallel to the line containing point
Parallel to the line containing point
Containing the points and
Containing the points and
Perpendicular to the line point
Perpendicular to the line point
Writing Exercises
Why are all horizontal lines parallel?
Answers will vary.
Explain in your own words why the slopes of two perpendicular lines must have opposite signs.
Self Check
ⓐ After completing the exercises, use this checklist to evaluate your mastery of the objectives of this section.
ⓑ What does this checklist tell you about your mastery of this section? What steps will you take to improve?
Glossary
- point-slope form
- The point-slope form of an equation of a line with slope m and containing the point is