11.3 Graphing with Intercepts

Identify the Intercepts on a Graph

Every linear equation has a unique line that represents all the solutions of the equation. When graphing a line by plotting points, each person who graphs the line can choose any three points, so two people graphing the line might use different sets of points.

At first glance, their two lines might appear different since they would have different points labeled. But if all the work was done correctly, the lines will be exactly the same line. One way to recognize that they are indeed the same line is to focus on where the line crosses the axes. Each of these points is called an intercept of the line.

For each row, the y- coordinate of the point where the line crosses the x- axis is zero. The point where the line crosses the x- axis has the form (a,0)(a,0); and is called the x-intercept of the line. The x- intercept occurs when y is zero.

Now, let’s look at the points where these lines cross the y-axis.

Graph a Line Using the Intercepts

To graph a linear equation by plotting points, you can use the intercepts as two of your three points. Find the two intercepts, and then a third point to ensure accuracy, and draw the line. This method is often the quickest way to graph a line.

Choose the Most Convenient Method to Graph a Line

While we could graph any linear equation by plotting points, it may not always be the most convenient method. This table shows six of equations we’ve graphed in this chapter, and the methods we used to graph them.