Mathematics » Rational Expressions and Equations » Add and Subtract Rational Expressions with a Common Denominator

Subtracting Rational Expressions With a Common Denominator

Subtracting Rational Expressions With a Common Denominator

To subtract rational expressions, they must also have a common denominator. When the denominators are the same, you subtract the numerators and place the difference over the common denominator.

Rational Expression Subtraction

If \(p,q,\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\text{and}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}r\) are polynomials where \(r\ne 0\), then

\(\frac{p}{r}-\frac{q}{r}=\frac{p-q}{r}\)

To subtract rational expressions, subtract the numerators and place the difference over the common denominator.

We always simplify rational expressions. Be sure to factor, if possible, after you subtract the numerators so you can identify any common factors.

Example

Subtract: \(\frac{{n}^{2}}{n-10}-\frac{100}{n-10}.\)

Solution

\(\begin{array}{cccc}& & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{{n}^{2}}{n-10}-\frac{100}{n-10}\hfill \\ \\ \begin{array}{c}\text{The fractions have a common}\hfill \\ \text{denominator, so subtract the numerators}\hfill \\ \text{and place the difference over the}\hfill \\ \text{common denominator.}\hfill \end{array}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{{n}^{2}-100}{n-10}\hfill \\ \\ \text{Factor the numerator.}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{\left(n-10\right)\left(n+10\right)}{n-10}\hfill \\ \\ \text{Simplify by removing common factors.}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{\require{cancel}\cancel{\left(n-10\right)}\left(n+10\right)}{\require{cancel}\cancel{n-10}}\hfill \\ \\ \text{Simplify.}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}n+10\hfill \end{array}\)

Be careful of the signs when you subtract a binomial!

Example

Subtract: \(\frac{{y}^{2}}{y-6}-\frac{2y+24}{y-6}.\)

Solution

\(\begin{array}{cccc}& & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{{y}^{2}}{y-6}-\frac{2y+24}{y-6}\hfill \\ \\ \begin{array}{c}\text{The fractions have a common}\hfill \\ \text{denominator, so subtract the numerators}\hfill \\ \text{and place the difference over the}\hfill \\ \text{common denominator.}\hfill \end{array}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{{y}^{2}-\left(2y+24\right)}{y-6}\hfill \\ \\ \text{Distribute the sign in the numerator.}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{{y}^{2}-2y-24}{y-6}\hfill \\ \\ \text{Factor the numerator.}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{\left(y-6\right)\left(y+4\right)}{y-6}\hfill \\ \\ \text{Remove common factors.}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{\require{cancel}\cancel{\left(y-6\right)}\left(y+4\right)}{\require{cancel}\cancel{y-6}}\hfill \\ \\ \text{Simplify.}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}y+4\hfill \end{array}\)

Example

Subtract: \(\frac{5{x}^{2}-7x+3}{{x}^{2}-3x+18}-\frac{4{x}^{2}+x-9}{{x}^{2}-3x+18}.\)

Solution

\(\begin{array}{cccc}& & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{5{x}^{2}-7x+3}{{x}^{2}-3x+18}-\frac{4{x}^{2}+x-9}{{x}^{2}-3x+18}\hfill \\ \\ \begin{array}{c}\text{Subtract the numerators and place the}\hfill \\ \text{difference over the common}\hfill \\ \text{denominator.}\hfill \end{array}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{5{x}^{2}-7x+3-\left(4{x}^{2}+x-9\right)}{{x}^{2}-3x+18}\hfill \\ \\ \text{Distribute the sign in the numerator.}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{5{x}^{2}-7x+3-4{x}^{2}-x+9}{{x}^{2}-3x-18}\hfill \\ \\ \text{Combine like terms.}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{{x}^{2}-8x+12}{{x}^{2}-3x-18}\hfill \\ \\ \begin{array}{c}\text{Factor the numerator and the}\hfill \\ \text{denominator.}\hfill \end{array}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{\left(x-2\right)\left(x-6\right)}{\left(x+3\right)\left(x-6\right)}\hfill \\ \\ \text{Simplify by removing common factors.}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{\left(x-2\right)\require{cancel}\cancel{\left(x-6\right)}}{\left(x+3\right)\require{cancel}\cancel{\left(x-6\right)}}\hfill \\ \text{Simplify.}\hfill & & & \hfill \phantom{\rule{5em}{0ex}}\frac{\left(x-2\right)}{\left(x+3\right)}\hfill \end{array}\)

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