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17Calculus Precalculus - Zero Product Rule

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The Zero Product Rule (also called Zero Product Property) is a simple yet powerful rule that you will use a lot in calculus. Here is how it works.

If you have an equation like \( (a) (b) = 0 \), you can automatically assume that either \(a = 0 \) and/or \(b=0\). The reason this works is that when you multiply any number by zero, the result is always zero. For example, \( (2) 0 = 0 \) and \( 0 (621) = 0 \). Any number or variable multiplied by zero is always equal to zero.

This also works with more than one variable. For example, if you have \( (x) (y) (z) (a) = 0\), then you can write \( x=0 \), \(y=0\), \(z=0\) and/or \(a=0\). The key is that one or more of them have to be zero for this equation be true.

One common mistake students make is to assume this works when you have something other than zero on one side of the equation. For example, if you have \( (a) (b) = 1 \), you cannot assume that \( a=1\) or \( b=1\). This would hold if \( a=2\) and \( b=1/2\) neither of which are \(1\). So the key when using the zero product rule is that you need zero on one side of the equation.

Another thing to watch is if you have something other multiplication, i.e. \( (a) (b) + 1 = 0 \). Of course, you should know by now that you can't say \( a=0 \) and/or \(b=0\). The \( +1 \) term does not allow you to apply the zero product rule.

The zero product rule is used mostly when solving for roots, as in this example.

Example

Find the roots (where the function crosses the x-axis) of \( f(x) = x^2 - 3x + 2 \).

Solution

When the function crosses the x-axis, the y-value is zero, so we need to solve \( x^2 - 3x +2 = 0 \). First, we factor.
\( \begin{array}{rcl} x^2 - 3x +2 & = & 0 \\ (x-1)(x-2) & = & 0 \end{array} \)
Notice we have two expressions within parentheses multiplied together and we have zero on the other side of the equal sign. So we can apply the zero product rule.
\( x-1 = 0 \) or \( x-2 = 0 \)
Solving for \(x\) in both equations gives us
\( x=1 \) or \( x=2 \)
So we know that the roots of \( f(x) \) are \( x=1\) and \( x=2\).

Okay, time for some practice problems.

Math Word Problems Demystified

Practice

Unless otherwise instructed, use the zero product rule to solve these equations, i.e. find the x-values that make these equations true.

\( x(x-3) = 0 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( x(x-3) = 0 \) using the zero product rule.

Final Answer

\(x = 0\) or \(x = 3\)

Problem Statement

Solve \( x(x-3) = 0 \) using the zero product rule.

Solution

2740 video solution

Final Answer

\(x = 0\) or \(x = 3\)

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\( (x+2)(x-3) = 0 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( (x+2)(x-3) = 0 \) using the zero product rule.

Final Answer

\(x = -2\) or \( x = 3 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( (x+2)(x-3) = 0 \) using the zero product rule.

Solution

2741 video solution

Final Answer

\(x = -2\) or \( x = 3 \)

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\( 4x(x+5)=0 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( 4x(x+5)=0 \) using the zero product rule.

Final Answer

\( x = 0 \) or \( x = -5 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( 4x(x+5)=0 \) using the zero product rule.

Solution

2742 video solution

Final Answer

\( x = 0 \) or \( x = -5 \)

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\( (x-2)(x+7) = 0 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( (x-2)(x+7) = 0 \) using the zero product rule.

Final Answer

\( x = 2 \) or \( x = -7 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( (x-2)(x+7) = 0 \) using the zero product rule.

Solution

2743 video solution

Final Answer

\( x = 2 \) or \( x = -7 \)

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\( (2x+3)(5x-1) = 0 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( (2x+3)(5x-1) = 0 \) using the zero product rule.

Final Answer

\( x = -3/2 \) or \( x = 1/5 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( (2x+3)(5x-1) = 0 \) using the zero product rule.

Solution

2744 video solution

Final Answer

\( x = -3/2 \) or \( x = 1/5 \)

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\( x(x-1)(6x+11) = 0 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( x(x-1)(6x+11) = 0 \) using the zero product rule.

Final Answer

\( x = 0 \) or \( x = -1 \) or \( x = -11/6 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( x(x-1)(6x+11) = 0 \) using the zero product rule.

Solution

2745 video solution

Final Answer

\( x = 0 \) or \( x = -1 \) or \( x = -11/6 \)

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\( -x+x^2=6 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( -x+x^2=6 \) using the zero product rule.

Final Answer

\(x = 0\) or \(x = 3\)

Problem Statement

Solve \( -x+x^2=6 \) using the zero product rule.

Solution

Krista King Math - 2135 video solution

video by Krista King Math

Final Answer

\(x = 0\) or \(x = 3\)

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\( x^2 - x - 12 = 0 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( x^2 - x - 12 = 0 \) by factoring and applying the zero product rule.

Final Answer

\( x = 4 \) or \( x = -3 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( x^2 - x - 12 = 0 \) by factoring and applying the zero product rule.

Solution

2746 video solution

Final Answer

\( x = 4 \) or \( x = -3 \)

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\( x^2 + 6x - 16 = 0 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( x^2 + 6x - 16 = 0 \) by factoring and applying the zero product rule.

Solution

2747 video solution

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\( x^2 - 9x = 0 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( x^2 - 9x = 0 \) by factoring and applying the zero product rule.

Final Answer

\( x = 0 \) or \( x = 9 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( x^2 - 9x = 0 \) by factoring and applying the zero product rule.

Solution

2748 video solution

Final Answer

\( x = 0 \) or \( x = 9 \)

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\( x^2 - 3x - 10 = 0 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( x^2 - 3x - 10 = 0 \) by factoring and applying the zero product rule.

Final Answer

\( x = 5 \) or \( x = -2 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( x^2 - 3x - 10 = 0 \) by factoring and applying the zero product rule.

Solution

2749 video solution

Final Answer

\( x = 5 \) or \( x = -2 \)

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\( x^2 - 36 = 0 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( x^2 - 36 = 0 \) by factoring and applying the zero product rule.

Final Answer

\( x = 6 \) or \( x = -6 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( x^2 - 36 = 0 \) by factoring and applying the zero product rule.

Solution

2750 video solution

Final Answer

\( x = 6 \) or \( x = -6 \)

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\( 3x^2 + 4x - 7 = 0 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( 3x^2 + 4x - 7 = 0 \) by factoring and applying the zero product rule.

Final Answer

\( x = 0 \) or \( x = -7/3 \)

Problem Statement

Solve \( 3x^2 + 4x - 7 = 0 \) by factoring and applying the zero product rule.

Solution

2751 video solution

Final Answer

\( x = 0 \) or \( x = -7/3 \)

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Really UNDERSTAND Precalculus

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Page Resources

Topics You Need To Understand For This Page

algebra factoring

completing the square

Related Topics and Links

Wikipedia: Zero Product Property

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Example

Practice

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Practice Instructions

Unless otherwise instructed, use the zero product rule to solve these equations, i.e. find the x-values that make these equations true.

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