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In this section, you will:
  • Solve systems of three equations in three variables.
  • Identify inconsistent systems of equations containing three variables.
  • Express the solution of a system of dependent equations containing three variables.
(credit: “Elembis,” Wikimedia Commons)

John received an inheritance of $12,000 that he divided into three parts and invested in three ways: in a money-market fund paying 3% annual interest; in municipal bonds paying 4% annual interest; and in mutual funds paying 7% annual interest. John invested $4,000 more in municipal funds than in municipal bonds. He earned $670 in interest the first year. How much did John invest in each type of fund?

Understanding the correct approach to setting up problems such as this one makes finding a solution a matter of following a pattern. We will solve this and similar problems involving three equations and three variables in this section. Doing so uses similar techniques as those used to solve systems of two equations in two variables. However, finding solutions to systems of three equations requires a bit more organization and a touch of visual gymnastics.

Solving systems of three equations in three variables

In order to solve systems of equations in three variables, known as three-by-three systems, the primary tool we will be using is called Gaussian elimination , named after the prolific German mathematician Karl Friedrich Gauss . While there is no definitive order in which operations are to be performed, there are specific guidelines as to what type of moves can be made. We may number the equations to keep track of the steps we apply. The goal is to eliminate one variable at a time to achieve upper triangular form , the ideal form for a three-by-three system because it allows for straightforward back-substitution to find a solution ( x , y , z ) , which we call an ordered triple . A system in upper triangular form looks like the following:

A x + B y + C z = D           E y + F z = G                   H z = K

The third equation can be solved for z , and then we back-substitute to find y and x . To write the system in upper triangular form, we can perform the following operations:

  1. Interchange the order of any two equations.
  2. Multiply both sides of an equation by a nonzero constant.
  3. Add a nonzero multiple of one equation to another equation.

The solution set to a three-by-three system is an ordered triple { ( x , y , z ) } . Graphically, the ordered triple defines the point that is the intersection of three planes in space. You can visualize such an intersection by imagining any corner in a rectangular room. A corner is defined by three planes: two adjoining walls and the floor (or ceiling). Any point where two walls and the floor meet represents the intersection of three planes.

Number of possible solutions

[link] and [link] illustrate possible solution scenarios for three-by-three systems.

  • Systems that have a single solution are those which, after elimination, result in a solution set    consisting of an ordered triple { ( x , y , z ) } . Graphically, the ordered triple defines a point that is the intersection of three planes in space.
  • Systems that have an infinite number of solutions are those which, after elimination, result in an expression that is always true, such as 0 = 0. Graphically, an infinite number of solutions represents a line or coincident plane that serves as the intersection of three planes in space.
  • Systems that have no solution are those that, after elimination, result in a statement that is a contradiction, such as 3 = 0. Graphically, a system with no solution is represented by three planes with no point in common.
(a)Three planes intersect at a single point, representing a three-by-three system with a single solution. (b) Three planes intersect in a line, representing a three-by-three system with infinite solutions.
All three figures represent three-by-three systems with no solution. (a) The three planes intersect with each other, but not at a common point. (b) Two of the planes are parallel and intersect with the third plane, but not with each other. (c) All three planes are parallel, so there is no point of intersection.

Questions & Answers

what is math number
Tric Reply
x-2y+3z=-3 2x-y+z=7 -x+3y-z=6
Sidiki Reply
Need help solving this problem (2/7)^-2
Simone Reply
x+2y-z=7
Sidiki
what is the coefficient of -4×
Mehri Reply
-1
Shedrak
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?
Kala Reply
lim x to infinity e^1-e^-1/log(1+x)
given eccentricity and a point find the equiation
Moses Reply
12, 17, 22.... 25th term
Alexandra Reply
12, 17, 22.... 25th term
Akash
College algebra is really hard?
Shirleen Reply
Absolutely, for me. My problems with math started in First grade...involving a nun Sister Anastasia, bad vision, talking & getting expelled from Catholic school. When it comes to math I just can't focus and all I can hear is our family silverware banging and clanging on the pink Formica table.
Carole
I'm 13 and I understand it great
AJ
I am 1 year old but I can do it! 1+1=2 proof very hard for me though.
Atone
hi
Adu
Not really they are just easy concepts which can be understood if you have great basics. I am 14 I understood them easily.
Vedant
hi vedant can u help me with some assignments
Solomon
find the 15th term of the geometric sequince whose first is 18 and last term of 387
Jerwin Reply
I know this work
salma
The given of f(x=x-2. then what is the value of this f(3) 5f(x+1)
virgelyn Reply
hmm well what is the answer
Abhi
If f(x) = x-2 then, f(3) when 5f(x+1) 5((3-2)+1) 5(1+1) 5(2) 10
Augustine
how do they get the third part x = (32)5/4
kinnecy Reply
make 5/4 into a mixed number, make that a decimal, and then multiply 32 by the decimal 5/4 turns out to be
AJ
how
Sheref
can someone help me with some logarithmic and exponential equations.
Jeffrey Reply
sure. what is your question?
ninjadapaul
20/(×-6^2)
Salomon
okay, so you have 6 raised to the power of 2. what is that part of your answer
ninjadapaul
I don't understand what the A with approx sign and the boxed x mean
ninjadapaul
it think it's written 20/(X-6)^2 so it's 20 divided by X-6 squared
Salomon
I'm not sure why it wrote it the other way
Salomon
I got X =-6
Salomon
ok. so take the square root of both sides, now you have plus or minus the square root of 20= x-6
ninjadapaul
oops. ignore that.
ninjadapaul
so you not have an equal sign anywhere in the original equation?
ninjadapaul
hmm
Abhi
is it a question of log
Abhi
🤔.
Abhi
I rally confuse this number And equations too I need exactly help
salma
But this is not salma it's Faiza live in lousvile Ky I garbage this so I am going collage with JCTC that the of the collage thank you my friends
salma
Commplementary angles
Idrissa Reply
hello
Sherica
im all ears I need to learn
Sherica
right! what he said ⤴⤴⤴
Tamia
hii
Uday
hi
salma
hi
Ayuba
Hello
opoku
hi
Ali
greetings from Iran
Ali
salut. from Algeria
Bach
hi
Nharnhar
Practice Key Terms 1

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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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