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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

how can are find the domain and range of a relations
austin Reply
A cell phone company offers two plans for minutes. Plan A: $15 per month and $2 for every 300 texts. Plan B: $25 per month and $0.50 for every 100 texts. How many texts would you need to send per month for plan B to save you money?
Diddy Reply
6000
Robert
more than 6000
Robert
can I see the picture
Zairen Reply
How would you find if a radical function is one to one?
Peighton Reply
how to understand calculus?
Jenica Reply
with doing calculus
SLIMANE
Thanks po.
Jenica
Hey I am new to precalculus, and wanted clarification please on what sine is as I am floored by the terms in this app? I don't mean to sound stupid but I have only completed up to college algebra.
rachel Reply
I don't know if you are looking for a deeper answer or not, but the sine of an angle in a right triangle is the length of the opposite side to the angle in question divided by the length of the hypotenuse of said triangle.
Marco
can you give me sir tips to quickly understand precalculus. Im new too in that topic. Thanks
Jenica
if you remember sine, cosine, and tangent from geometry, all the relationships are the same but they use x y and r instead (x is adjacent, y is opposite, and r is hypotenuse).
Natalie
it is better to use unit circle than triangle .triangle is only used for acute angles but you can begin with. Download any application named"unit circle" you find in it all you need. unit circle is a circle centred at origine (0;0) with radius r= 1.
SLIMANE
What is domain
johnphilip
the standard equation of the ellipse that has vertices (0,-4)&(0,4) and foci (0, -15)&(0,15) it's standard equation is x^2 + y^2/16 =1 tell my why is it only x^2? why is there no a^2?
Reena Reply
what is foci?
Reena Reply
This term is plural for a focus, it is used for conic sections. For more detail or other math questions. I recommend researching on "Khan academy" or watching "The Organic Chemistry Tutor" YouTube channel.
Chris
how to determine the vertex,focus,directrix and axis of symmetry of the parabola by equations
Bryssen Reply
i want to sure my answer of the exercise
meena Reply
what is the diameter of(x-2)²+(y-3)²=25
Den Reply
how to solve the Identity ?
Barcenas Reply
what type of identity
Jeffrey
Confunction Identity
Barcenas
how to solve the sums
meena
hello guys
meena
For each year t, the population of a forest of trees is represented by the function A(t) = 117(1.029)t. In a neighboring forest, the population of the same type of tree is represented by the function B(t) = 86(1.025)t.
Shakeena Reply
by how many trees did forest "A" have a greater number?
Shakeena
32.243
Kenard
how solve standard form of polar
Rhudy Reply
what is a complex number used for?
Drew Reply
It's just like any other number. The important thing to know is that they exist and can be used in computations like any number.
Steve
I would like to add that they are used in AC signal analysis for one thing
Scott
Good call Scott. Also radar signals I believe.
Steve
They are used in any profession where the phase of a waveform has to be accounted for in the calculations. Imagine two electrical signals in a wire that are out of phase by 90°. At some times they will interfere constructively, others destructively. Complex numbers simplify those equations
Tim
Practice Key Terms 1

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Source:  OpenStax, Precalculus. OpenStax CNX. Jan 19, 2016 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11667/1.6
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