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In mathematics, a system of linear equations (or linear system) is a collection of linear equations involving the same set of variables. For example,
is a system of three equations in the three variables x, y, z. A solution to a linear system is an assignment of numbers to the variables such that all the equations are simultaneously satisfied. A solution to the system above is given by
since it makes all three equations valid.
A linear system may behave in any one of three possible ways:
The system has infinitely many solutions.
The system has a single unique solution.
The system has no solution.
The equations of a linear system are independent if none of the equations can be derived algebraically from the others. When the equations are independent, each equation contains new information about the variables, and removing any of the equations increases the size of the solution set. For linear equations, logical independence is the same as linear independence. Systems that are not independent are by definition dependent.
are dependent, because the third equation is the sum of the other two. Indeed, any one of these equations can be derived from the other two, and any one of the equations can be removed without affecting the solution set. The graphs of these equations are three lines that intersect at a single point .
A linear system is consistent if it has a solution, and inconsistent otherwise. When the system is inconsistent, it is possible to derive a contradiction from the equations, that may always be rewritten such as the statement 0 = 1.
are inconsistent. In fact, by subtracting the first equation from the second one and multiplying both sides of the result by 1/6, we get 0 = 1. The graphs of these equations on the xy-plane are a pair of parallel lines .
are inconsistent. Adding the first two equations together gives 3x + 2y = 2, which can be subtracted from the third equation to yield 0 = 1. Note that any two of these equations have a common solution. The same phenomenon can occur for any number of equations.
In general, inconsistencies occur if the left-hand sides of the equations in a system are linearly dependent, and the constant terms do not satisfy the dependence relation. A system of equations whose left-hand sides are linearly independent is always consistent.