Representations of Linear Functions

In this introductory section, you will practice representing a linear function using words, function notation, tables, and graphs. We will also introduce the language and techniques used to determine whether the graph of a linear function is increasing, decreasing, or constant.

Linear Functions

Learning Objectives

In this section, you will:

  • Represent a linear function.
  • Determine whether a linear function is increasing, decreasing, or constant.
  • Interpret slope as a rate of change.
  • Write and interpret an equation for a linear function.
  • Graph linear functions.
  • Determine whether lines are parallel or perpendicular.
  • Write the equation of a line parallel or perpendicular to a given line.

Figure 1 Shanghai MagLev Train

Just as with the growth of a bamboo plant, there are many situations that involve constant change over time. Consider, for example, the first commercial maglev train in the world, the Shanghai MagLev Train (Figure 1). It carries passengers comfortably for a 30-kilometer trip from the airport to the subway station in only eight minutes.

Suppose a maglev train travels a long distance, and maintains a constant speed of 83 meters per second for a period of time once it is 250 meters from the station. How can we analyze the train's distance from the station as a function of time? In this section, we will investigate a kind of function that is useful for this purpose, and use it to investigate real-world situations such as the train's distance from the station at a given point in time.

Source: Rice University,
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