Systems of Equations
Systems In Three Or More Variables
Systems of equations with more than two variables are possible. A linear equation in three variables could be represented by the equation ax + by + cz = k, where a, b, c, and k are constants and x, y, and z are variables. For these systems, the solution set would contain all the number triplets which make the equation true. To obtain the solution to any system of equations, the number of unknowns must be equal to the number of equations available. Thus, to solve a system in three variables, there must exist three different equations which relate the unknowns.
The methods for solving a system of equations in three variables is analogous to the methods used to solve a two variable system and include graphical, substitution, and elimination. It should be noted that the graphs of these systems are represented by geometric planes instead of lines. The solutions by substitution and elimination, though more complex, are similar to the two variable system counterparts.
For systems of equations with more than three equations and three unknowns, the methods of graphing and substitution are not practical for determining a solution. Solutions for these types of systems are determined by using a mathematical invention known as a matrix. A matrix is represented by a rectangle array of numbers written in brackets. Each number in a matrix is known as an element. Matrices are categorized by their number of rows and columns.
By letting the elements in a matrix represent the constants in a system of equation, values for the variables which solve the equations can be obtained.
Systems of equations have played an important part in the development of business, industry and the military since the time of World War II. In these fields, solutions for systems of equations are obtained using computers and a method of maximizing parameters of the system called linear programming.
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Bittinger, Marvin L. and Davic Ellenbogen. Intermediate Algebra: Concepts and Applications. 6th ed. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing, 2001.
Paulos, John Allen. Beyond Numeracy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 1991.