7.4: Simplify Complex Rational Expressions
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 Lynn Marecek
 Professor (Mathematics) at Santa Ana College
 Publisher: OpenStax CNX
Summary
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
 Simplify a complex rational expression by writing it as division
 Simplify a complex rational expression by using the LCD
Before you get started, take this readiness quiz.
Simplify a Complex Rational Expression by Writing it as Division
Complex fractions are fractions in which the numerator or denominator contains a fraction. We previously simplified complex fractions like these:
3458x2xy63458x2xy6
In this section, we will simplify complex rational expressions, which are rational expressions with rational expressions in the numerator or denominator.
COMPLEX RATIONAL EXPRESSION
A complex rational expression is a rational expression in which the numerator and/or the denominator contains a rational expression.
Here are a few complex rational expressions:
4y−38y2−91x+1yxy−yx2x+64x−6−4x2−364y−38y2−91x+1yxy−yx2x+64x−6−4x2−36
Remember, we always exclude values that would make any denominator zero.
We will use two methods to simplify complex rational expressions.
We have already seen this complex rational expression earlier in this chapter.
6x2−7x+24x−82x2−8x+3x2−5x+66x2−7x+24x−82x2−8x+3x2−5x+6
We noted that fraction bars tell us to divide, so rewrote it as the division problem:
(6x2−7x+24x−8)÷(2x2−8x+3x2−5x+6).(6x2−7x+24x−8)÷(2x2−8x+3x2−5x+6).
Then, we multiplied the first rational expression by the reciprocal of the second, just like we do when we divide two fractions.
This is one method to simplify complex rational expressions. We make sure the complex rational expression is of the form where one fraction is over one fraction. We then write it as if we were dividing two fractions.
Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 6x−43x2−16.6x−43x2−16.
Rewrite the complex fraction as division.Rewrite as the product of first times thereciprocal of the second.Factor.Multiply.Remove common factors.Simplify.6x−43x2−166x−4÷3x2−166x−4·x2−1633·2x−4·(x−4)(x+4)33·2(x−4)(x+4)3(x−4)3·2(x−4)(x+4)3(x−4)2(x+4)6x−43x2−16Rewrite the complex fraction as division.6x−4÷3x2−16Rewrite as the product of first times thereciprocal of the second.6x−4·x2−163Factor.3·2x−4·(x−4)(x+4)3Multiply.3·2(x−4)(x+4)3(x−4)Remove common factors.3·2(x−4)(x+4)3(x−4)Simplify.2(x+4)
Are there any value(s) of x that should not be allowed? The original complex rational expression had denominators of x−4x−4 and x2−16.x2−16. This expression would be undefined if x=4x=4 or x=−4.x=−4.
Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 2x2−13x+1.2x2−13x+1.
23(x−1)23(x−1)
Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 1x2−7x+122x−4.1x2−7x+122x−4.
12(x−3)12(x−3)
Fraction bars act as grouping symbols. So to follow the Order of Operations, we simplify the numerator and denominator as much as possible before we can do the division.
Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 13+1612−13.13+1612−13.
Simplify the numerator and denominator. Find the LCD and add the fractions in the numerator. Find the LCD and subtract the fractions in the denominator. 

Simplify the numerator and denominator.  
Rewrite the complex rational expression as a division problem. 

Multiply the first by the reciprocal of the second.  
Simplify.  3 
Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 12+2356+112.12+2356+112.
14111411
Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 34−1318+56.34−1318+56.
10231023
We follow the same procedure when the complex rational expression contains variables.
How to Simplify a Complex Rational Expression using Division
Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 1x+1yxy−yx.1x+1yxy−yx.
Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 1x+1y1x−1y.1x+1y1x−1y.
y+xy−xy+xy−x
Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 1a+1b1a2−1b21a+1b1a2−1b2.
abb−aabb−a
We summarize the steps here.
SIMPLIFY A COMPLEX RATIONAL EXPRESSION BY WRITING IT AS DIVISION.
 Simplify the numerator and denominator.
 Rewrite the complex rational expression as a division problem.
 Divide the expressions.
Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: n−4nn+51n+5+1n−5.n−4nn+51n+5+1n−5.
Simplify the numerator and denominator. Find common denominators for the numerator and denominator. 

Simplify the numerators.  
Subtract the rational expressions in the numerator and add in the denominator. 

Simplify. (We now have one rational expression over one rational expression.) 

Rewrite as fraction division.  
Multiply the first times the reciprocal of the second.  
Factor any expressions if possible.  
Remove common factors.  
Simplify. 
Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: b−3bb+52b+5+1b−5.b−3bb+52b+5+1b−5.
b(b+2)(b−5)3b−5b(b+2)(b−5)3b−5
Simplify the complex rational expression by writing it as division: 1−3c+41c+4+c3.1−3c+41c+4+c3.
3c+33c+3
Simplify a Complex Rational Expression by Using the LCD
We “cleared” the fractions by multiplying by the LCD when we solved equations with fractions. We can use that strategy here to simplify complex rational expressions. We will multiply the numerator and denominator by the LCD of all the rational expressions.
Let’s look at the complex rational expression we simplified one way in Example. We will simplify it here by multiplying the numerator and denominator by the LCD. When we multiply by LCDLCDLCDLCD we are multiplying by 1, so the value stays the same.
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 13+1612−13.13+1612−13.
The LCD of all the fractions in the whole expression is 6.  
Clear the fractions by multiplying the numerator and denominator by that LCD. 

Distribute.  
Simplify.  
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 12+15110+15.12+15110+15.
7373
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 14+3812−516.14+3812−516.
103103
We will use the same example as in Example. Decide which method works better for you.
How to Simplify a Complex Rational Expressing using the LCD
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 1x+1yxy−yx.1x+1yxy−yx.
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 1a+1bab+ba.1a+1bab+ba.
b+aa2+b2b+aa2+b2
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 1x2−1y21x+1y.1x2−1y21x+1y.
y−xxyy−xxy
SIMPLIFY A COMPLEX RATIONAL EXPRESSION BY USING THE LCD.
 Find the LCD of all fractions in the complex rational expression.
 Multiply the numerator and denominator by the LCD.
 Simplify the expression.
Be sure to start by factoring all the denominators so you can find the LCD.
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 2x+64x−6−4x2−36.2x+64x−6−4x2−36.
Find the LCD of all fractions in the complex rational expression. The LCD is x2−36=(x+6)(x−6)x2−36=(x+6)(x−6). 

Multiply the numerator and denominator by the LCD.  
Simplify the expression.  
Distribute in the denominator.  
Simplify.  
Simplify.  
To simplify the denominator, distribute and combine like terms. 

Factor the denominator.  
Remove common factors.  
Simplify.  
Notice that there are no more factors common to the numerator and denominator. 
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 3x+25x−2−3x2−4.3x+25x−2−3x2−4.
3(x−2)5x+73(x−2)5x+7
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 2x−7−1x+76x+7−1x2−49.2x−7−1x+76x+7−1x2−49.
x+216x−43x+216x−43
Be sure to factor the denominators first. Proceed carefully as the math can get messy!
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 4m2−7m+123m−3−2m−4.4m2−7m+123m−3−2m−4.
Find the LCD of all fractions in the complex rational expression. 

The LCD is (m−3)(m−4).(m−3)(m−4).  
Multiply the numerator and denominator by the LCD. 

Simplify.  
Simplify.  
Distribute.  
Combine like terms. 
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 3x2+7x+104x+2+1x+5.3x2+7x+104x+2+1x+5.
35x+2235x+22
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 4yy+5+2y+63yy2+11y+30.4yy+5+2y+63yy2+11y+30.
2(2y2+13y+5)3y2(2y2+13y+5)3y
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: yy+11+1y−1.yy+11+1y−1.
Find the LCD of all fractions in the complex rational expression.  
The LCD is (y+1)(y−1).(y+1)(y−1).  
Multiply the numerator and denominator by the LCD.  
Distribute in the denominator and simplify.  
Simplify.  
Simplify the denominator and leave the numerator factored. 

Factor the denominator and remove factors common with the numerator. 

Simplify. 
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: xx+31+1x+3.xx+31+1x+3.
xx+4xx+4
Simplify the complex rational expression by using the LCD: 1+1x−13x+1.1+1x−13x+1.
x(x+1)3(x−1)x(x+1)3(x−1)
Access this online resource for additional instruction and practice with complex fractions.
Key Concepts
 How to simplify a complex rational expression by writing it as division.
 Simplify the numerator and denominator.
 Rewrite the complex rational expression as a division problem.
 Divide the expressions.
 How to simplify a complex rational expression by using the LCD.
 Find the LCD of all fractions in the complex rational expression.
 Multiply the numerator and denominator by the LCD.
 Simplify the expression.
Practice Makes Perfect
Simplify a Complex Rational Expression by Writing it as Division
In the following exercises, simplify each complex rational expression by writing it as division.
2aa+44a2a2−162aa+44a2a2−16
a−42aa−42a
3bb−5b2b2−253bb−5b2b2−25
5c2+5c−1410c+75c2+5c−1410c+7
12(c−2)12(c−2)
8d2+9d+1812d+68d2+9d+1812d+6
12+5623+7912+5623+79
12131213
12+3435+71012+3435+710
23−1934+5623−1934+56
20572057
12−1623+3412−1623+34
nm+1n1n−nmnm+1n1n−nm
n2+mm−n2n2+mm−n2
1p+pqqp−1q1p+pqqp−1q
1r+1t1r2−1t21r+1t1r2−1t2
rtt−rrtt−r
2v+2w1v2−1w22v+2w1v2−1w2
x−2xx+31x+3+1x−3x−2xx+31x+3+1x−3
(x+1)(x−3)2(x+1)(x−3)2
y−2yy−42y−4+2y+4y−2yy−42y−4+2y+4
2−2a+31a+3+a22−2a+31a+3+a2
4a+14a+1
4+4b−51b−5+b44+4b−51b−5+b4
Simplify a Complex Rational Expression by Using the LCD
In the following exercises, simplify each complex rational expression by using the LCD.
13+1814+11213+1814+112
118118
14+1916+11214+1916+112
56+29718−1356+29718−13
1919
16+41535−1216+41535−12
cd+1d1d−dccd+1d1d−dc
c2+cc−d2c2+cc−d2
1m+mnnm−1n1m+mnnm−1n
1p+1q1p2−1q21p+1q1p2−1q2
pqq−ppqq−p
2r+2t1r2−1t22r+2t1r2−1t2
2x+53x−5+1x2−252x+53x−5+1x2−25
2x−103x+162x−103x+16
5y−43y+4+2y2−165y−43y+4+2y2−16
5z2−64+3z+81z+8+2z−85z2−64+3z+81z+8+2z−8
3z−193z+83z−193z+8
3s+6+5s−61s2−36+4s+63s+6+5s−61s2−36+4s+6
4a2−2a−151a−5+2a+34a2−2a−151a−5+2a+3
43a−743a−7
5b2−6b−273b−9+1b+35b2−6b−273b−9+1b+3
5c+2−3c+75cc2+9c+145c+2−3c+75cc2+9c+14
2c+295c2c+295c
6d−4−2d+72dd2+3d−286d−4−2d+72dd2+3d−28
2+1p−35p−32+1p−35p−3
2p−552p−55
nn−23+5n−2nn−23+5n−2
mm+54+1m−5mm+54+1m−5
m(m−5)(4m−19)(m+5)m(m−5)(4m−19)(m+5)
7+2q−21q+27+2q−21q+2
In the following exercises, simplify each complex rational expression using either method.
34−2712+51434−2712+514
13241324
vw+1v1v−vwvw+1v1v−vw
2a+41a2−162a+41a2−16
2(a−4)2(a−4)
3b2−3b−405b+5−2b−83b2−3b−405b+5−2b−8
3m+3n1m2−1n23m+3n1m2−1n2
3mnn−m3mnn−m
2r−91r+9+3r2−812r−91r+9+3r2−81
x−3xx+23x+2+3x−2x−3xx+23x+2+3x−2
(x−1)(x−2)6(x−1)(x−2)6
yy+32+1y−3yy+32+1y−3
Writing Exercises
In this section, you learned to simplify the complex fraction 3x+2xx2−43x+2xx2−4 two ways: rewriting it as a division problem or multiplying the numerator and denominator by the LCD. Which method do you prefer? Why?
Answers will vary.
Efraim wants to start simplifying the complex fraction 1a+1b1a−1b1a+1b1a−1b by cancelling the variables from the numerator and denominator, 1a+1b1a−1b.1a+1b1a−1b. Explain what is wrong with Efraim’s plan.
Self Check
ⓐ After completing the exercises, use this checklist to evaluate your mastery of the objectives of this section.
ⓑ After looking at the checklist, do you think you are wellprepared for the next section? Why or why not?
Glossary
 complex rational expression
 A complex rational expression is a rational expression in which the numerator and/or denominator contains a rational expression.