This guide provides useful resources for a wide variety of math topics. It is targeted at students enrolled in a math course or any other Centennial course that requires math knowledge and skills.

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**radical** refers to an expression involving the \( \sqrt{} \) symbol that is placed on numbers to represent the "square root" or "\(n\)th root of a number".

The **square root** of a number is the value that you can multiply by itself **twice** to obtain the original number.

`Examples`

\( \sqrt{4} = 2 \) because \(2 \times 2 = 4\).

\( \sqrt{25} = 5 \) because \(5 \times 5 = 25\).

The \(n\)**th root** of a number is the value that you can multiply by itself \(n\) **times** to obtain the original number.

The **index** of a radical is what denotes the value of \(n\). (So when \(n=2\), we just have a square root.)

We call the value inside of the radical symbol the **radicand.**

`Examples`

\( \sqrt[3]{27} = 3 \) because \(3 \times 3 \times 3 = 3^3 = 27\).

\( \sqrt[4]{16} = 2 \) because \(2 \times 2 \times 2 \times 2 = 2^4 = 16\).

\( \sqrt[3]{-64} = -4 \) because \((-4) \times (-4) \times (-4) = (-4)^3 = -64\).

\( \sqrt[4]{-16} \) produces a value that is not a real number. The reason why is because it is impossible to multiply the same number by itself and obtain a negative number. Recall that when two negatives multiply by each other we obtain a positive value.

Unless you are studying complex/imaginary numbers (see Complex Numbers), we just say that we cannot obtain a real value and recognize this as being unsolvable. So, you **cannot take an \(n\)th root of a negative number if \(n\) is even.**

An expression is in **radical form** if it includes the radical symbol.

An expression is in **power/exponent form** if it includes exponents and NO radical symbol.

Radicals and exponents can be connected using the following important formula:

\begin{align}

a^{\frac{m}{n}} &= \sqrt[n]{a^m} \qquad &(1) \\ &= \left(\sqrt[n]{a}\right)^m \qquad &(2)

\end{align}

**If \(a\) is negative**, then there are certain limitations to this rule that are explained in the next subsection.

Notice how if \( m = 1 \) the above formula becomes:

\begin{align}

a^{\frac{1}{n}} &= \sqrt[n]{a}

\end{align}

Both (1) and (2) are valid. Choosing between which version of the formula to use depends on what expression you're working with. Sometimes it's easier to use (1) and sometimes it's easier to use (2). Choose whichever one YOU think will be easier to work with at the time. However, when writing down a **final answer in radical form, use (1).**

The left-hand-side is in **exponent form**, and the right-hand-side of (1) and (2) are in **radical form.**

`Example 1`

Evaluate \( \left(-4\right)^{\frac{4}{2}} \).

`Solution`

\begin{align} \left(-4\right)^{\frac{4}{2}} &= \left(-4\right)^2 \\ &= 16 \end{align}

As the problem is given to us in exponent form, we are not applying the power-of-a-power rule and are just simplifying the exponent to solve the question.

`Example 2`

Evaluate \( \left(\sqrt{-81}\right)^2 \).

`Solution`

We cannot take the square root of a negative number, so we cannot arrive at a solution if we are only working with real numbers.

We **CANNOT** use power-of-a-power rule in this scenario because that rule is not applicable to negative bases with even-index radicals (such as the square root).

\begin{align} \left(\sqrt{-81}\right)^2 &\neq \left(-81\right)^\frac{2}{2} \end{align}

If you are working with complex numbers, the answer does end up being \( -81 \) but it is NOT due to the use of power-of-a-power rule.

If you are curious, this is the solution using complex numbers:

\begin{align} \left(\sqrt{-81}\right)^2 &= \left(9i\right)^2 \\ &= 81i^2 \\ &= -81 \end{align}

`Example 3`

Evaluate \( \left(\sqrt[3]{-27}\right)^2 \).

`Solution`

\begin{align} \left(\sqrt[3]{-27}\right)^2 &= \left(-3\right)^2 \\ &= 9 \end{align}

In this scenario, it would have been okay to use the power-of-a-power rule because the negative base (-27) had a radical with an odd index (3). However, we did not need to because it is easier to evaluate this problem like we did above then to try and evaluate \( \left(-27\right)^\frac{2}{3} \)

`Example 4`

Evaluate \( \left(\sqrt[9]{-3}\right)^{36} \).

`Solution`

\begin{align} \left(\sqrt[9]{-3}\right)^{36} &= \left(-3\right)^\frac{36}{9} \\ &= \left(-3\right)^4 \\ &= 81 \end{align}

It is okay to use the power-of-a-power rule here because the negative base (-3) had a radical with an odd index (9).

`Example 1`

Rewrite \( \sqrt{3} \) in exponent form.

`Solution`

\begin{align} \sqrt{3} &= 3^{\frac{1}{2}} \end{align}

Remember that a square root has an index of 2.

We don't write a little "two" because the square root is universally recognized as being a radical with index two.

`Example 2`

Rewrite \( \sqrt[3]{17} \) in exponent form.

`Solution`

\begin{align} \sqrt[3]{17} &= 17^{\frac{1}{3}} \end{align}

This radical has an index of 3.

`Example 3`

Rewrite \( \sqrt{x^3} \) in exponent form.

`Solution`

\begin{align} \sqrt{x^3} &= x^{\frac{3}{2}} \end{align}

Our solution is also the answer to:

Rewrite \( \left(\sqrt{x}\right)^3 \) in exponent form.

`Example 4`

Rewrite \( x^{\frac{5}{7}} \) in radical form.

`Solution`

\begin{align} x^{\frac{5}{7}} &= \sqrt[7]{x^5} \end{align}

While \( \left(\sqrt[7]{x}\right)^5 \) is equivalent to our solution, it is preferred to have our solution be written as it is above.

Radicals can be added and subtracted in a very similar way to how we add/subtract regular algebraic expressions.

Radical terms can be added/subtracted as long as they are **like radicals**

**Like radicals** are ones that have the **same index **on their radical and the **same radicand.**

`Example`

\( 3\sqrt{2} \) , \( 11\sqrt{2} \) , and \( -4\sqrt{2} \) , are all like radicals.

\( 3\sqrt{2} + 11\sqrt{2} - 4\sqrt{2} = 10\sqrt{2} \)

`Example`

Between, \( 3\sqrt{2} \) , \( 11\sqrt{3} \) , and \( -4\sqrt[3]{2} \) , __none__ are like radicals.

\( 3\sqrt{2} + 11\sqrt{3} - 4\sqrt[3]{2} \) cannot be simplified further.

- Last Updated: Feb 13, 2024 11:31 AM
- URL: https://libraryguides.centennialcollege.ca/mathhelp
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