Quadratic Factoring

In my last post, I showed how to solve


Now this is really a quadratic equation in disguise. When I covered the Distributive Property, you saw how to distribute a factor within a set of brackets:


This can also be done in reverse by un-distributing the x to get the expression back into factored form so that you can take advantage of the Null Factor Law. What I didn’t cover, was how to take an expression like \[
\] and un-factor it. To do this, you can distribute each term in the first set of brackets with each term in the second set:


So this is now recognisable as a quadratic expression. However, if I originally had the equation


we could not use the Null Factor Law. So what can you do if given this equation? There is a way to solve this using something called the Quadratic Formula, but that will be covered later. Here I will show how to factor this equation back to the original form we started with so that we can use the Null Factor Law.

So the goal is to take \[
\] and get it in the form

(something)(something else). If you look at how we unfactorised this, you can see that I can start with

\], where we need to find the a and the b so that the expressions are equivalent. I know this is the way to start as the two x‘s are needed to get \[
\] when they are multiplied together. Now to find the a and the b, including the sign of each, you need to look at all the possible factors of the known number in the quadratic, in this case -35, that add up to the coefficient of the middle term, in this case -2. Again, this is suggested if you look at how we expanded \[
\]. The last number in the expansion (-35) is generated by multiplying the -7 and the +5. These two numbers also multiply the x‘s which are eventually added together to get the middle term, in this case -2x.

So to find the a and the b in \[
\], let’s look at the possible factors of 35 (ignoring the sign for the moment): 35 and 1 or 7 and 5. 35 and 1 do indeed multiply to equal 35 but their addition or subtraction together do not equal 2. That leaves 7 and 5 which do satisfy both requirements: 7 × 5 = 35, 7 – 5 = 2. Now all that remains is to determine the signs. Since their multiplication has to equal -35, one of the numbers needs to be negative. And since the coefficient of the middle term is negative, the large number 7 needs to be negative as well. So in this case a = -7 and b = + 5 so that the factorisation we are looking for is \[
\]. Now we can use the Null Factor Law to solve the equation, as we had done previously.

Not all quadratics can be factored like this, but this is a good skill to develop with practise. I will do several more examples in my next post.