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Mathematics LibreTexts

2: Linear Functions

Recall that a function is a relation that assigns to every element in the domain exactly one element in the range. Linear functions are a specific type of function that can be used to model many real-world applications, such as plant growth over time. In this chapter, we will explore linear functions, their graphs, and how to relate them to data.

  • 2.0: Prelude to Linear Functions
    Imagine placing a plant in the ground one day and finding that it has doubled its height just a few days later. Although it may seem incredible, this can happen with certain types of bamboo species. These members of the grass family are the fastest-growing plants in the world. One species of bamboo has been observed to grow nearly 1.5 inches every hour.  A constant rate of change, such as the growth cycle of this bamboo plant, is a linear function.
  • 2.1: Linear Functions
    The ordered pairs given by a linear function represent points on a line. Linear functions can be represented in words, function notation, tabular form, and graphical form. The rate of change of a linear function is also known as the slope. An equation in the slope-intercept form of a line includes the slope and the initial value of the function. The initial value, or y-intercept, is the output value when the input of a linear function is zero.
  • 2.2: Graphs of Linear Functions
    Linear functions may be graphed by plotting points or by using the y-intercept and slope. Graphs of linear functions may be transformed by using shifts up, down, left, or right, as well as through stretches, compressions, and reflections. The y-intercept and slope of a line may be used to write the equation of a line. The x-intercept is the point at which the graph of a linear function crosses the x-axis. Horizontal lines are written like: \(f(x)=b\). Vertical lines are written like: \(x=b\).
  • 2.3: Modeling with Linear Functions
    We can use the same problem strategies that we would use for any type of function. When modeling and solving a problem, identify the variables and look for key values, including the slope and y-intercept. Draw a diagram, where appropriate. Check for reasonableness of the answer. Linear models may be built by identifying or calculating the slope and using the y-intercept. The x-intercept may be found by setting y=0, which is setting the expression mx+b equal to 0.
  • 2.4: Fitting Linear Models to Data
    Scatter plots show the relationship between two sets of data. Scatter plots may represent linear or non-linear models. The line of best fit may be estimated or calculated, using a calculator or statistical software. Interpolation can be used to predict values inside the domain and range of the data, whereas extrapolation can be used to predict values outside the domain and range of the data. The correlation coefficient, r , indicates the degree of linear relationship between data.