This page continues a discussion of the
effect of the linear coefficient (**b**) on a quadratic function of the form:

Assignment 2, **Parabolic Vertices**,
discussed the value of **b**'s effect upon the position of the graph of the
parabola. To view this assignment, Click Here.

**Graphs on the xb-plane**

To continue the discussion, this page will analyze how the value of b is related to the quadratic formula and the solution of quadratic equations in the form:

One way to look at the effect of **b** upon the solutions
of an equation in this form is to graph it with respect to **x** and **b**. This provides
a different graph, describing a family of equations, as opposed
to the singular graph seen when the Cartesian plane (with **x **and **y** axes) is used.
Refer to the graph below:

The graph of:

It is important to consider the axes
of this graph. The horizontal axis is the **x**-axis, as it is usually named. The horizontal
axis, however, is the **b**-axis. This graph shows the value(s) of **x** for any given
value of **b**.
This is useful for several reasons.

**The Roots of a Quadratic
Equation**

First, if an arbitrary value of **b** is chosen,
it is possible solve any equation of the form graphed above. For
example, a visual representation of this solution is presented
below for the value **b = 4**.

The value of **b
= 4** is represented by the red
horizontal line. Note that it intersects the previous graph in
two places. The x-coordinates of the points of intersection are
the roots, or solutions to the equation

These solutions correspond to the roots of the parabola formed by graphing the function

Click Here to view a graph of this parabola.

**Discriminants and the Number
of Solutions (Roots)**

The graph above provides insight regarding the value of the discriminant of the quadratic equation. If you need to refresh your memory about discriminants, Click Here.

As you can see below, there are some
values for **b**
where the horizontal line intersects the graph at two points (such
as **b = 4**),
some values for **b** where the horizontal line intersects the graph
at exactly one point (**b = 2** and **b = -2**), and some values for **b** where the horizontal line does not intersect
the graph (**b = -1**).

Thus, a real solution to the quadratic
equation is achieved when the absoute value
of **b**
is greater than or equal to **2**.

Can you verify this result algebraically? Click Here to see a verification.

**Changing the value of c**

What happens if the value of **c** is changed?
The blue graph below represents the function

, reflecting
**c = -1**.

Note that any horizontal line drawn will
intersect this new graph, indicating that real solutions exist
for all values of **b**.

**The Symmetric Nature of
Roots**

In the Cartesian plane, the axis of symmetry
of a parabola is the vertical line dividing the parabola into
two congruent halves. The **x**-value that describes the location of the axis
of symmetry is the average (arithmetic mean) of the roots of the
parabola. How can the axis of symmetry be incorporated into the
**xb**-plane
graphs used in this investigation?

First, it is helpful to know the equation of the Cartesian axis of symmetry. It is the found within the quadratic formula and can be stated as:

Since **a
= 1**, this formula can be transformed
into the linear equation **2x +
b = 0**. By including the graph
of this equation with the above graphs in the **xb**-plane, the
relationship between the axis of symmetry and the roots of a Cartesian
parabola is confirmed.

Note that the horizontal distance, in either direction, from each point of the line representing the axis of symmetry (green) to either of the previous curves is uniform.