Equation of a Line Using Point-Slope Formula

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  • 0:06 Point-Slope Formula
  • 3:12 The Formula
  • 4:01 Example #1
  • 5:23 Example #2
  • 8:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jeff Calareso

Jeff teaches high school English, math and other subjects. He has a master's degree in writing and literature.

It's time for a road trip to Las Vegas, and after four hours of driving at 60 mph ... Are we there yet? Learn the point-slope form of the equation of a line to help answer this age-old question.

Road Trip to Las Vegas

Graph of a location as a function of time
graph of a location as a function of time

A good buddy of mine is getting married tonight in Las Vegas, so I'm going to go on a little road trip. At 2 p.m., I'm on the road to Vegas and I'm going about 60 mph. At 6 p.m., I'm still on the road to Vegas and I'm still going 60 mph. I'm out of gas, but that's another problem. Whether or not I'm in Vegas, and make it there in time for this 10 p.m. wedding, is going to depend on where I start. If I drive for 4 hours from Los Angeles, I might be in Las Vegas. If I'm trying to make it there from Miami or Seattle, I'm probably not there, especially not if I'm only going 60 mph.

Let's take a look at a graph of my location as a function of time.

I know that my velocity is my change in location divided by my change in time. On this particular graph, it's going to be the slope of any line that is connecting my location at one point in time to my location at another point in time. The slope of the line connecting these two points will be 60, but I don't exactly where these two points are. I don't know if I'm starting in Los Angeles or Phoenix or Seattle. So I don't know if I can possibly make it to this wedding by 10 p.m., because I don't know where I've started.

Point-Slope Form

Let's look at this mathematically. Let's use what's called point-slope form of an equation. This is going to relate time with my location. To use point-slope form, I need to know a point, such as my starting city, and the slope, such as my speed. For example, let's say that at 2 p.m., I'm at mile marker 40. That's my starting point. My speed will be 60 mph. I don't want to get pulled over on the way to this wedding. If I ask you intuitively where I will be after 2 hours, at 4 p.m., you might tell me that I will be at mile marker 160, if I've been going 60 mph.

The location now minus the old location equals 120 miles
point slope formula

How did you do that? You said that the change in time, which is the amount of time I'm driving, is 2 hours. I'm going 60 mph in those 2 hours. That means that I'm going to travel a total of 120 miles. I'm not going to be at mile marker 120, though, because I didn't start out at mile marker 0. I'm going an additional 120 miles from where I am now. So the change in location is going to be 120 miles. That's location now minus my old location. So I'm going to take 120 and add it to my current location, which is mile marker 40. In 2 hours, going 60 mph, I will go 120 miles further than I am now. I will get all the way to mile marker 160.

The Formula

We can write this very mathematically as y=y sub 1 + m(x - x sub 1). Here, our initial point, our starting location, is (x sub 1, y sub 1). That's the current time and the current location: x sub 1 is the time and y sub 1 is my location. m is my slope, delta y / delta x. That's how steep this line is, the change in y divided by the change in x. What I have here is my starting location plus my miles per hour times the amount of time, and that gives my location in the future.

Example #1

Let's do an example. Let's say that at 1 p.m., I start out at mile marker 10, and I'm going to go 72 mph. Let's use point-slope form to relate the time with my location. Point-slope form isy=y sub 1 + m(x - x sub 1). Let's start filling things in. m is the slope, so that's 72, because I'm going 72 mph. x is x; that's my time. x sub 1 and y sub 1 are my current location. So x sub 1 is the current time (this point here), which is just 1 for 1 p.m. y sub 1 is the location at 1 p.m., which is just mile marker 10. I can plug in those two numbers to get y=10 + 72(x - 1). If I want to know where I am at any given point in time, I can plug in that value for x and solve to find my location, y. So, at 4 p.m., x=4 and y is then 10 + 72(4 - 1), which is 226 miles. That's my new mile marker.

Example of point-slope formula

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