Skip to main content

## Section13.3Addition and Subtraction of Rational Expressions

In the last section, we learned how to multiply and divide rational expressions. In this section, we will learn how to add and subtract rational expressions.

### Subsection13.3.1Introduction

###### Example13.3.2

Julia is taking her family on a boat trip $12$ miles down the river and back. The river flows at a speed of $2$ miles per hour and she wants to drive the boat at a constant speed, $v$ miles per hour downstream and back upstream. Due to the current of the river, the actual speed of travel is $v+2$ miles per hour going downstream, and $v-2$ miles per hour going upstream. If Julia plans to spend $8$ hours for the whole trip, how fast should she drive the boat?

We need to review three forms of the formula for movement at a constant rate:

\begin{align*} d\amp=vt\amp v\amp=\frac{d}{t}\amp t\amp=\frac{d}{v} \end{align*}

where $d$ stands for distance, $v$ represents speed, and $t$ stands for time. According to the third form, the time it takes the boat to travel downstream is $\frac{12}{v+2}\text{,}$ and the time it takes to get back upstream is $\frac{12}{v-2}\text{.}$

The function to model the time of the whole trip is

\begin{equation*} t(v)=\frac{12}{v-2}+\frac{12}{v+2} \end{equation*}

where $t$ stands for time in hours, and $v$ is the boat's speed in miles per hour. Let's look at the graph of this function in Figure 13.3.3. Note that since the speed $v$ and the time $t(v)$ should be positive in context, it's only the first quadrant of Figure 13.3.3 that matters. To find the speed that Julia should drive the boat to make the round trip last $8$ hours we can use graphing technology to solve the equation

\begin{equation*} \frac{12}{v-2}+\frac{12}{v+2}=8 \end{equation*}

graphically and we see that $v=4\text{.}$ This tells us that a speed of $4$ miles per hour will give a total time of $8$ hours to complete the trip. To go downstream it would take $\frac{12}{v+2}=\frac{12}{4+2}=2$ hours; and to go upstream it would take $\frac{12}{v-2}=\frac{12}{4-2}=6$ hours.

The point of this section is to work with expressions like $\frac{12}{v-2}+\frac{12}{v+2}\text{,}$ where two rational expressions are added (or subtracted). There are times when it is useful to combine them into a single fraction. We will learn that the expression $\frac{12}{v-2}+\frac{12}{v+2}$ is equal to the expression $\frac{24v}{v^2-4}\text{,}$ and we will learn how to make that simplification.

### Subsection13.3.2Addition and Subtraction of Rational Expressions with the Same Denominator

The process of adding and subtracting rational expressions will be very similar to the process of adding and subtracting purely numerical fractions.

If the two expressions have the same denominator, then we can rely on the property of adding and subtracting fractions and simplify that result.

Let's review how to add fractions with the same denominator:

\begin{align*} \frac{1}{10}+\frac{3}{10}\amp=\frac{1+3}{10}\\ \amp=\frac{4}{10}\\ \amp=\frac{2}{5} \end{align*}

We can add and subtract rational expressions in the same way:

\begin{align*} \frac{2}{3x}-\frac{5}{3x}\amp=\frac{2-5}{3x}\\ \amp=\frac{-3}{3x}\\ \amp=-\frac{1}{x} \end{align*}
###### Example13.3.5

Add the rational expressions: $\dfrac{2x}{x+y}+\dfrac{2y}{x+y}\text{.}$

Explanation

These expressions already have a common denominator:

\begin{align*} \frac{2x}{x+y}+\frac{2y}{x+y}\amp=\frac{2x+2y}{x+y}\\ \amp=\frac{2\cancelhighlight{(x+y)}}{\cancelhighlight{x+y}}\\ \amp=\frac{2}{1}\\ \amp=2 \end{align*}

Note that we didn't stop at $\frac{2x+2y}{x+y}\text{.}$ If possible, we must simplify the numerator and denominator. Since this is a multivariable expression, this textbook ignores domain restrictions while canceling.

### Subsection13.3.3Addition and Subtraction of Rational Expressions with Different Denominators

To add rational expressions with different denominators, we'll need to build each fraction to the least common denominator, in the same way we do with numerical fractions. Let's briefly review this process by adding $\frac{3}{5}$ and $\frac{1}{6}\text{:}$

\begin{align*} \frac{3}{5}+\frac{1}{6}\amp=\frac{3}{5}\multiplyright{\frac{6}{6}}+\frac{1}{6}\multiplyright{\frac{5}{5}}\\ \amp=\frac{18}{30}+\frac{5}{30}\\ \amp=\frac{18+5}{30}\\ \amp=\frac{23}{30} \end{align*}

This exact method can be used when adding rational expressions containing variables. The key is that the expressions must have the same denominator before they can be added or subtracted. If they don't have this initially, then we'll identify the least common denominator and build each expression so that it has that denominator.

Let's apply this to adding the two expressions with denominators that are $v-2$ and $v+2$ from Example 13.3.2.

###### Example13.3.6

Add the rational expressions and fully simplify the function given by $t(v)=\frac{12}{v-2}+\frac{12}{v+2}\text{.}$

Explanation
\begin{align*} t(v)\amp=\frac{12}{v-2}+\frac{12}{v+2}\\ t(v)\amp=\frac{12}{v-2}\multiplyright{\frac{v+2}{v+2}}+\frac{12}{v+2}\multiplyright{\frac{v-2}{v-2}}\\ t(v)\amp=\frac{12v+24}{(v-2)(v+2)}+\frac{12v-24}{(v+2)(v-2)}\\ t(v)\amp=\frac{(12v+24)+(12v-24)}{(v+2)(v-2)}\\ t(v)\amp=\frac{24v}{(v+2)(v-2)} \end{align*}
###### Example13.3.7

Add the rational expressions: $\dfrac{2}{5x^2y}+\dfrac{3}{20xy^2}$

Explanation

The least common denominator of $5x^2y$ and $20xy^2$ must include two $x$'s and two $y$'s, as well as $20\text{.}$ Thus it is $20x^2y^2\text{.}$ We will build both denominators to $20x^2y^2$ before doing addition.

\begin{align*} \frac{2}{5x^2y}+\frac{3}{20xy^2}\amp=\frac{2}{5x^2y}\multiplyright{\frac{4y}{4y}}+\frac{3}{20xy^2}\multiplyright{\frac{x}{x}}\\ \amp=\frac{8y}{20x^2y^2}+\frac{3x}{20x^2y^2}\\ \amp=\frac{8y+3x}{20x^2y^2} \end{align*}

Let's look at a few more complicated examples.

###### Example13.3.8

Subtract the rational expressions: $\dfrac{y}{y-2}-\dfrac{8y-8}{y^2-4}$

Explanation

To start, we'll make sure each denominator is factored. Then we'll find the least common denominator and build each expression to that denominator. Then we will be able to combine the numerators and simplify the expression.

\begin{align*} \frac{y}{y-2}-\frac{8y-8}{y^2-4}\amp=\frac{y}{y-2}-\frac{8y-8}{(y+2)(y-2)}\\ \amp=\frac{y}{y-2}\multiplyright{\frac{y+2}{y+2}}-\frac{8y-8}{(y+2)(y-2)}\\ \amp=\frac{y^2+2y}{(y+2)(y-2)}-\frac{8y-8}{(y+2)(y-2)}\\ \amp=\frac{y^2+2y-\highlight{\attention{(}}8y-8\highlight{\attention{)}}}{(y+2)(y-2)}\\ \amp=\frac{y^2+2y-8y+8}{(y+2)(y-2)}\\ \amp=\frac{y^2-6y+8}{(y+2)(y-2)}\\ \amp=\frac{\cancelhighlight{(y-2)}(y-4)}{(y+2)\cancelhighlight{(y-2)}}\\ \amp=\frac{y-4}{y+2}, \text{ for } y\neq 2 \end{align*}

Note that we must factor the numerator in $\frac{y^2-6y+8}{(y+2)(y-2)}$ and try to reduce the fraction (which we did).

###### Warning13.3.9

In Example 13.3.8, be careful to subtract the entire numerator of $8y-8\text{.}$ When this expression is in the numerator of $\frac{8y-8}{(y+2)(y-2)}\text{,}$ it's implicitly grouped and doesn't need parentheses. But once $8y-8$ is subtracted from $y^2+2y\text{,}$ we need to add parentheses so the entire expression is subtracted.

In the next example, we'll look at adding a rational expression to a polynomial. Much like adding a fraction and an integer, we'll rely on writing that expression as itself over one in order to build its denominator.

###### Example13.3.10

Add the expressions: $-\dfrac{2}{r-1}+r$

Explanation
\begin{align*} -\frac{2}{r-1}+r\amp=-\frac{2}{r-1}+\frac{r}{1}\\ \amp=-\frac{2}{r-1}+\frac{r}{1}\multiplyright{\frac{r-1}{r-1}}\\ \amp=\frac{-2}{r-1}+\frac{r^2-r}{r-1}\\ \amp=\frac{-2+r^2-r}{r-1}\\ \amp=\frac{r^2-r-2}{r-1}\\ \amp=\frac{(r-2)(r+1)}{r-1} \end{align*}

Note that we factored the numerator to reduce the fraction if possible. Even though it was not possible in this case, leaving it in factored form makes it easier to see that it is reduced.

###### Example13.3.11

Subtract the expressions: $\dfrac{6}{x^2-2x-8}-\dfrac{1}{x^2+3x+2}$

Explanation

To start, we'll need to factor each of the denominators. After that, we'll identify the LCD and build each denominator accordingly. Then we can combine the numerators and simplify the resulting expression.

\begin{align*} \frac{6}{x^2-2x-8}-\frac{1}{x^2+3x+2}\amp=\frac{6}{(x-4)(x+2)}-\frac{1}{(x+2)(x+1)}\\ \amp=\frac{6}{(x-4)(x+2)}\multiplyright{\frac{x+1}{x+1}}-\frac{1}{(x+2)(x+1)}\multiplyright{\frac{x-4}{x-4}}\\ \amp=\frac{6x+6}{(x-4)(x+2)(x+1)}-\frac{x-4}{(x+2)(x+1)(x-4)}\\ \amp=\frac{6x+6-(x-4)}{(x-4)(x+2)(x+1)}\\ \amp=\frac{6x+6-x+4}{(x-4)(x+2)(x+1)}\\ \amp=\frac{5x+10}{(x-4)(x+2)(x+1)}\\ \amp=\frac{5\cancelhighlight{(x+2)}}{(x-4)\cancelhighlight{(x+2)}(x+1)}\\ \amp=\frac{5}{(x-4)(x+1)}, \text{ for }x\neq -2 \end{align*}

### Subsection13.3.4Exercises

###### 1

Add: $\displaystyle{\frac{17}{24} + \frac{11}{24}}$

###### 2

Add: $\displaystyle{\frac{7}{12} + \frac{7}{12}}$

###### 3

Add: $\displaystyle{\frac{7}{10} + \frac{5}{6}}$

###### 4

Add: $\displaystyle{\frac{9}{10} + \frac{5}{6}}$

###### 5

Subtract: $\displaystyle{\frac{23}{21} - \frac{20}{21}}$

###### 6

Subtract: $\displaystyle{\frac{11}{14} - \frac{3}{14}}$

###### 7

Subtract: $\displaystyle{\frac{3}{7} - \frac{1}{21}}$

###### 8

Subtract: $\displaystyle{\frac{3}{7} - \frac{19}{21}}$

###### 9

Factor the given polynomial.

${r^{2}-64}=$

###### 10

Factor the given polynomial.

${t^{2}-16}=$

###### 11

Factor the given polynomial.

${t^{2}+11t+10}=$

###### 12

Factor the given polynomial.

${x^{2}+12x+35}=$

###### 13

Factor the given polynomial.

${x^{2}-12x+27}=$

###### 14

Factor the given polynomial.

${x^{2}-13x+30}=$

###### 15

Factor the given polynomial.

${9y^{2}-27y+18}=$

###### 16

Factor the given polynomial.

${8y^{2}-24y+16}=$

###### 17

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{4r}{r+2}+\frac{8}{r+2}} =}$

###### 18

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{6r}{r+6}+\frac{36}{r+6}} =}$

###### 19

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{3t}{t+5}+\frac{15}{t+5}} =}$

###### 20

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{6t}{t+3}+\frac{18}{t+3}} =}$

###### 21

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{1}{x^{2}-x-30}-\frac{x-5}{x^{2}-x-30}} =}$

###### 22

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{6}{x^{2}-12x+20}-\frac{x-4}{x^{2}-12x+20}} =}$

###### 23

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{4}{x^{2}-25}-\frac{x-1}{x^{2}-25}} =}$

###### 24

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{5}{y^{2}-8y+7}-\frac{y-2}{y^{2}-8y+7}} =}$

###### 25

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{4y}{5}+\frac{y}{30}} =}$

###### 26

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{5r}{6}+\frac{r}{18}} =}$

###### 27

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{6}{r+2}-\frac{5}{r+4}} =}$

###### 28

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{5}{t-5}-\frac{2}{t-4}} =}$

###### 29

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{3}{t-1}-\frac{2}{t+5}} =}$

###### 30

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{5}{x+6}-\frac{2}{x+2}} =}$

###### 31

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{1}{x+2}+\frac{4}{x^{2}-4}} =}$

###### 32

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{1}{x+3}+\frac{6}{x^{2}-9}} =}$

###### 33

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{1}{y-1}-\frac{2}{y^{2}-1}} =}$

###### 34

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{1}{y-3}-\frac{6}{y^{2}-9}} =}$

###### 35

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{5}{r+2}-\frac{10r}{r^{2}-4}} =}$

###### 36

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{4}{r-3}-\frac{8r}{r^{2}-9}} =}$

###### 37

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{5}{t+5}-\frac{10t}{t^{2}-25}} =}$

###### 38

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{4}{t-2}-\frac{8t}{t^{2}-4}} =}$

###### 39

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{x}{x+2}-\frac{6x+16}{x^{2}+2x}} =}$

###### 40

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{x}{x+2}-\frac{4x+12}{x^{2}+2x}} =}$

###### 41

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{x}{x-2}-\frac{3x-2}{x^{2}-2x}} =}$

###### 42

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{y}{y-9}-\frac{15y-54}{y^{2}-9y}} =}$

###### 43

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{6}{y^{2}-9}+\frac{3}{y+3}-\frac{1}{y-3}} =}$

###### 44

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{6}{r^{2}-1}+\frac{5}{r+1}-\frac{3}{r-1}} =}$

###### 45

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{4r}{r^{2}-7r+12}+\frac{4r}{r-3}} =}$

###### 46

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{-\frac{3t}{t^{2}-5t+6}-\frac{3t}{t-2}} =}$

###### 47

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{4t}{t^{2}-11t+30}+\frac{4t}{t-5}} =}$

###### 48

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{-\frac{3x}{x^{2}+5x+6}-\frac{3x}{x+3}} =}$

###### 49

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{x^{2}-5}{x^{2}+5x}-\frac{x-1}{x}} =}$

###### 50

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{x^{2}+15}{x^{2}-3x}-\frac{x-5}{x}} =}$

###### 51

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{3}{y+5}+4} =}$

###### 52

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{-\frac{5}{y+1}-4} =}$

###### 53

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{4r}{r+2}+\frac{r}{r-2}-5} =}$

###### 54

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify. If applicable, state the restricted domain.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{6r}{r+1}+\frac{r}{r-1}-7} =}$

###### 55

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{25t^{2}}{5t-8r}-\frac{64r^{2}}{5t-8r}} =}$

###### 56

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{81t^{2}}{9t+4y}-\frac{16y^{2}}{9t+4y}} =}$

###### 57

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{5x}{18t}+\frac{x}{6t}} =}$

###### 58

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{4x}{15r}+\frac{4x}{3r}} =}$

###### 59

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{2x}{3y^{3}}-\frac{2}{5xy}} =}$

###### 60

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify.

$\displaystyle{{-\frac{3y}{2t^{4}}+\frac{6}{5yt}} =}$

###### 61

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{3}{yr-6}-\frac{6yr}{y^{2}r^{2}-36}} =}$

###### 62

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{3}{rx+2}-\frac{6rx}{r^{2}x^{2}-4}} =}$

###### 63

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify.

$\displaystyle{{-\frac{6rt}{r^{2}+4rt+3t^{2}}+\frac{3r}{r+t}} =}$

###### 64

Add or subtract the rational expressions to a single rational expression and then simplify.

$\displaystyle{{\frac{6tr}{t^{2}-13tr+40r^{2}}-\frac{2t}{t-8r}} =}$