Definition of inequalities
Remember that the sign ‘$<$’ means “is less than,” or in other words
“is to the left of (on a number line).” For example, the picture below shows that
$3 < 2$, because $3$ is to the left of 2 on the number line.
Similarly, the sign ‘$>$’ means “is greater than” and “is to the right of (on a
number line).” So the same picture also shows that $2 > 3$.
Each row of the table to the right has a mathematical
sentence in it. Use the menu in each row to choose the mathematical sign which makes that
sentence true.
 
Also remember that the symbol ‘$≤$’ means “is less than or equal to” and the symbol ‘$≥$’
means “is greater than or equal to.” For example, $1 ≤ 2$, $1 ≥ 2$, and $1 ≤ 1$ are all true
statements.
Each row of the table below compares two numbers. Indicate whether each statement
involving those two numbers is true.
A mathematical sentence that uses one of these symbols ($<$, $>$,
$≤$, or $≥$) is called an inequality.
Graphing inequalities
In the rest of this lesson, you will study inequalities that use variables, like $y<1$ and
$3x+2y<5$. Given such an inequality, we want to find all its
solutions, which is called its solution set.
However, you won’t be able to list all of the solutions. One way to describe all possible
solutions is to graph them.
All of the blue points on the grid to the left
satisfy the equation $y=1$. Name a new point that satisfies
$y=1$ (that is, a point with $y$coordinate equal to 1).
 
We want to graph the solution set of $y=1$. This means that we want to
show all of the points whose $y$coordinate is 1. Click
to graph the solution set of $y=1$.
What is the shape of the solution set (triangle, circle, line, square, …)?
 
As you saw in equalQuestion, the graph of the solution
set of $y=1$ is a straight line. Now, let’s see what the solution set
of $y<1$ looks like.
The blue line on the grid is the graph of the equation
$y=1$. All of the blue points on the grid
have $y$coordinate less than 1. Are these points above, below, or on the
line $y=1$?
 
All of the blue points on the grid are in the solution set of
$y<1$. Name a new point that satisfies
$y<1$ (that is, a point with $y$coordinate less than 1).
 
Is it possible to graph the solution set of $y<1$ using a straight line?
 
Think about the graph of $y<1$. Do you think it forms a curve (like a
circle), an entire region (like a filledin box), or some other
shape?
 
The convention we use to graph $y<1$ is to shade the region where all
of the points in the solution set lie. So, the region below the line $y=1$
is shaded.
Click to look at the graph of
$y<1$. Does the point you found above lie in the shaded region?
 
Now think about what the graph of the solution set of $y>1$ looks like. Does it form a
curve, a region, or some other shape?
 
Is the graph of $y>1$ above, below, or on the line
$y=1$?
 
Here is the graph of $y<mx+b$. Leave
$m$ at 0 and use the slider for $b$ to change its value.
Notice how changing $b$ affects the solution set of
$y<b$.
Using the slider for $b$, find an inequality with $m=0$ that has all of the
red points on the grid in its solution set.
(The inequality is written below the grid.)
 
Using the slider for $b$, find an inequality with $m=0$ that has none of the
red points on the grid in its solution set.
 
Slide $b$ to 0. Which red points are in the solution
set of the inequality ($y<0$) now?
 , , , and

Now, leave $b$ set to 0. Use the slider for $m$ to change
its value, and notice how changing $m$ affects the solution set of the inequality
$y<mx$.
Set $m$ to 1. What is the inequality you are looking at now?
 
Which of the red points are in the solution set of this inequality?
 , , ,
, and 
Name the red points that aren’t in the solution set of this inequality.
 and 
Now we want to see what the solution set of $x>1$ looks like.
The line shown to the right of the $y$axis is the graph of the
equation $x=1$. All of the blue points on
the grid have $x$coordinate greater than 1. Are these points to the right of,
to the left of, or on the line
$x=1$?
 
All of the blue points on the grid are in the solution set of
$x>1$. Name a new point that satisfies
$x>1$ (that is, a point with $x$coordinate greater than 1).
 
Is it possible to graph the solution set of $x>1$ using a straight line?
 
Do you think the graph of $x>1$ forms a curve, an entire region, or some other
shape?
 
The convention we use to graph $x>1$
is to shade the region where all of the points in the solution set lie. So, the region to
the right of the line $x=1$ is shaded.
Click to look at the graph of
$x>1$. Does the point you found above lie in the shaded region?
 
Do you think the graph of $x<1$ forms a curve, an entire region, or some
other shape?
 
If you graphed $x<1$, would it be to the right of, to the
left of, or on the line $x=1$?
 
We want to find all of the points that satisfy the inequality $3x+2y<5$. The graph of
$3x+2y=5$ is shown on the grid to the left. The solution set of
$3x+2y<5$ will be the
points on one side or the other of this line. Let’s consider the point
$(0,0)$ and check if its coordinates satisfy $3x+2y<5$.
Substituting $(x,y) = (0,0)$ into $3x+2y<5$, we have:
$$\cl"tight"{\table 3(0),+,2(0),<, 5, \;?; 0,+,0,<, 5, \;?; \colspan 3 0, <, 5, \;?}$$
Is $0<5$? Yes. So the point $(0,0)$ is in the solution set.
Use the method shown above to check whether the point $(0,4)$ is in
the solution set of $3x+2y<5$.
Click to look at the graph of
$3x+2y<5$. Is the point $(0,0)$ in the
shaded region?
 
Is the point $(0,4)$ in the shaded region?
 
So far, you have only looked at inequalities that involved the $>$ and $<$
signs. Now we will look at inequalities that involve the $≥$ and $≤$ signs.
Look back at the graph of $3x+2y<5$.
Let’s see if the point $(3,2)$ satisfies this inequality:
$$\cl"tight"{\table 3(3),+,2(2),<,5,\;?; 9,+,(4),<,5,\;?;
,5,,<,5,\;?,\;\;\text"No."}$$
Check whether the point $(1,1)$ satisfies the inequality
$3x+2y < 5$.
Now, let’s look at the related inequality $3x+2y≤5$. Does the point
$(1,4)$ satisfy that inequality?
Click to see the graph
of the solution set of $3x+2y≤5$. Find the points
$(3,2)$, $(1,1)$ and
$(1,4)$ on the graph.
Is $(1,1)$ in the solution set of $3x+2y≤5$?
 
Notice that we graphed the solution set of $3x+2y≤5$ by including a
solid line (the line $3x+2y=5$).
When an inequality involves the $≥$ or $≤$ signs, we graph its solution set
by including a solid line at its boundary. This is because the points on the line are also in
the solution set.