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In this section students will:
  • Evaluate square roots.
  • Use the product rule to simplify square roots.
  • Use the quotient rule to simplify square roots.
  • Add and subtract square roots.
  • Rationalize denominators.
  • Use rational roots.

A hardware store sells 16-ft ladders and 24-ft ladders. A window is located 12 feet above the ground. A ladder needs to be purchased that will reach the window from a point on the ground 5 feet from the building. To find out the length of ladder needed, we can draw a right triangle as shown in [link] , and use the Pythagorean Theorem.

A right triangle with a base of 5 feet, a height of 12 feet, and a hypotenuse labeled c
a 2 + b 2 = c 2 5 2 + 12 2 = c 2 169 = c 2

Now, we need to find out the length that, when squared, is 169, to determine which ladder to choose. In other words, we need to find a square root. In this section, we will investigate methods of finding solutions to problems such as this one.

Evaluating square roots

When the square root of a number is squared, the result is the original number. Since 4 2 = 16 , the square root of 16 is 4. The square root function is the inverse of the squaring function just as subtraction is the inverse of addition. To undo squaring, we take the square root.

In general terms, if a is a positive real number, then the square root of a is a number that, when multiplied by itself, gives a . The square root could be positive or negative because multiplying two negative numbers gives a positive number. The principal square root    is the nonnegative number that when multiplied by itself equals a . The square root obtained using a calculator is the principal square root.

The principal square root of a is written as a . The symbol is called a radical    , the term under the symbol is called the radicand    , and the entire expression is called a radical expression    .

The expression: square root of twenty-five is enclosed in a circle. The circle has an arrow pointing to it labeled: Radical expression. The square root symbol has an arrow pointing to it labeled: Radical. The number twenty-five has an arrow pointing to it labeled: Radicand.

Principal square root

The principal square root    of a is the nonnegative number that, when multiplied by itself, equals a . It is written as a radical expression     , with a symbol called a radical    over the term called the radicand    : a .

Does 25 = ± 5 ?

No. Although both 5 2 and ( −5 ) 2 are 25 , the radical symbol implies only a nonnegative root, the principal square root. The principal square root of 25 is 25 = 5.

Evaluating square roots

Evaluate each expression.

  1. 100
  2. 16
  3. 25 + 144
  4. 49 81
  1. 100 = 10 because 10 2 = 100
  2. 16 = 4 = 2 because 4 2 = 16 and 2 2 = 4
  3. 25 + 144 = 169 = 13 because 13 2 = 169
  4. 49 81 = 7 9 = −2 because 7 2 = 49 and 9 2 = 81
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For 25 + 144 , can we find the square roots before adding?

No. 25 + 144 = 5 + 12 = 17. This is not equivalent to 25 + 144 = 13. The order of operations requires us to add the terms in the radicand before finding the square root.

Evaluate each expression.

  1. 225
  2. 81
  3. 25 9
  4. 36 + 121
  1. 15
  2. 3
  3. 4
  4. 17
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Using the product rule to simplify square roots

To simplify a square root, we rewrite it such that there are no perfect squares in the radicand. There are several properties of square roots that allow us to simplify complicated radical expressions. The first rule we will look at is the product rule for simplifying square roots, which allows us to separate the square root of a product of two numbers into the product of two separate rational expressions. For instance, we can rewrite 15 as 3 5 . We can also use the product rule to express the product of multiple radical expressions as a single radical expression.

Questions & Answers

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use the y -intercept and slope to sketch the graph of the equation y=6x
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x-2y+3z=-3 2x-y+z=7 -x+3y-z=6
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Solve for the first variable in one of the equations, then substitute the result into the other equation. Point For: (6111,4111,−411)(6111,4111,-411) Equation Form: x=6111,y=4111,z=−411x=6111,y=4111,z=-411
x=61/11 y=41/11 z=−4/11 x=61/11 y=41/11 z=-4/11
Need help solving this problem (2/7)^-2
Simone Reply
what is the coefficient of -4×
Mehri Reply
the operation * is x * y =x + y/ 1+(x × y) show if the operation is commutative if x × y is not equal to -1
Alfred Reply
An investment account was opened with an initial deposit of $9,600 and earns 7.4% interest, compounded continuously. How much will the account be worth after 15 years?
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lim x to infinity e^1-e^-1/log(1+x)
given eccentricity and a point find the equiation
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Practice Key Terms 6

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Source:  OpenStax, College algebra. OpenStax CNX. Feb 06, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11759/1.3
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