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Solving Systems of Linear Inequalities Graphically

A system of inequalities is a set of two or more inequalities analyzed together. In this course, linear systems in two inequalities will be explored. This section discusses how to graph and solve these systems.
Concept

System of Inequalities

The following system of inequalities contains two conditions on the variables and Systems of inequalities are often illustrated graphically in a coordinate plane, where the inequalities define a region.

Method

Graphing a System of Linear Inequalities

Individual inequalities can be interpreted graphically as the area above or below a boundary line. When all inequalitites in a system are graphed, the solution to the system is the overlapping region of the individual solution sets. For example, the following system can be solved in this way.

1

Write the inequalities in slope-intercept form
To be able to graph the inequalities individually, start by writing them in slope-intercept form.

2

Graph the inequalities in a coordinate plane

To graph the inequalities, begin with the boundary lines. The inequality has the boundary line Since the inequality sign is the line should be dashed, and the region below the line is shaded.

Similarly, has the boundary line The inequality sign is so the line is dashed and the region below the line is shaded.

3

Find the overlapping region

Notice that the individual solution sets overlap for a portion of the graph. This overlapping region is the solution set of the system. The points in this region are all the points that satisfy both inequalities. In this case, this is the purple region.

Lastly, since the boundary lines in their entirety are not part of the solution set, trim them to only show the borders of the overlapping region.

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Exercise

Write a system of inequalities that describes the shaded region.

Show Solution
Solution

To determine the system shown by the region, we can start with the boundary lines. The dashed line is vertical. If it were extended, we'd see that it passes through the -axis at Additionally, since the region to the right of is shaded, values of that are greater than are included. Since the line is dashed, is not included in the set. This means the inequality symbol is strict. Thus, The solid line is not vertical, so we can write its equation in slope-intercept form. Let's start by identifying two points on the line.

Two points on the line are and We can use their coordinates to find the slope.
Evaluate right-hand side
The slope of the line is We can write the incomplete equation of the line as To find the -intercept, we can substitute either point into the above equation for and We'll choose Solving this equation gives
Solve for
The -intercept is Thus, the equation of the boundary line for the second inequality is The shaded region is below the line means that the inequality sign is either or Since the line is solid, the inequality symbol is The system of inequalities that describes the shaded region is To verify that this is the correct system, let's graph the inequalities and see if we get the same region. The first inequality is greater than That is all points to the right of and since the inequality is strict, the line should be dashed.

The second inequality represent the region below the boundary line The inequality isn't strict so the line should be solid.

The region that contains the solution set of both inequalities is shown by the overlapping red and blue shading.

The region is the same. Thus, the system of inequalities created is correct.

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Exercise

Marco's mother asks him to buy burritos and tacos from the restaurant near their house. She gives him and instructs him to get enough food so that they can feed people. If burritos cost each and tacos cost each, how many of each can he buy?

Show Solution
Solution
There are a number of conditions in this exercise. Let's start with making sense of them. Let's use to represent the number of burritos that Marco buys, and to represent the number of tacos. Since the burritos cost each, the total amount spent on just burriots is Similarly, since a taco costs the total cost of tacos is Therefore, The total cost can be expressed as Since Marco has he cannot spend more than this. The total must be less than or equal to That means, We also know that Marco needs to buy enough food to feed people. Assuming no one wants to share a taco or a burrito, the total amount of dishes must be at least This gives Since both of these inequalities must hold true, we get the following system of inequalities. Solving this system gives all of the possible combinations of burritos and tacos Marco can purchase while buying enough food and staying within his budget. To solve the system, we must graph it. Let's first write the inequalities in slope-intercept form by isolating
Solve for
The first inequality can be expressed as Writing the second inequality in slope-intercept form can be done in one step. Specifically, by subtracting on both sides. The system can now be expressed as We'll graph each inequality by showing its boundary line and shading the appropriate region.

The purple region represents the solution set that satisfies both inequalities. Since Marco can't buy a negative number of burritos or tacos we're only interested in the positive values of and

Any point in this region corresponds to a combination on burritos and tacos that costs less than and feeds at least people. Let's look at the corners of this region.

The marked points represent minimum and maximum possibilities.

  • and represent Marco buying either tacos or burritos. Then he'd feed exactly people, and have money remaining.
  • and tell how many of each dish Marco can buy if he used all money on and only bought tacos or burritos. Thus, he can buy burritos or tacos.

Since we don't know how hungry the guests are, or what their preferences are, Marco should buy both burritos and tacos. Let's choose a point in the middle of the region.

One possibility is that Marco can purchase tacos and burritos. That way, there will probably be enough food, and he'll have money left. Note that even though decimal numbers are a part of the solution set, the answer should be given in whole numbers, assuming you can't buy a part of a taco or burrito.

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