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10.5: Square Root Applications

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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What if a penny were dropped from the top of the Washington Monument at a height of 555 feet? How long would it take for the penny to reach the ground? After completing this Concept, you'll be able to use quadratic functions and square roots to solve real-world applications like this one.

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CK-12 Foundation: 1005S Applications Using Square Roots


We can use the methods we’ve learned so far in this section to find approximate solutions to quadratic equations, when taking the square root doesn’t give an exact answer.

Example A

Solve the following quadratic equations.

a) x23=0

b) 2x29=0


a) Isolate the x2:x2=3Take the square root of both sides:x=3 and x=3

Answer: x1.73 and x1.73

b) Isolate the x2:2x2=9 so x2=92Take the square root of both sides:x=92 and x=92

Answer: x2.12 and x2.12

Example B

Solve the following quadratic equations.

a) (2x+5)2=10

b) x22x+1=5


a) Take the square root of both sides:Solve both equations:2x+5x=10 and 2x+5=10=5+102 and x=5102

Answer: x0.92 and x4.08

b) Factor the right-hand-side:Take the square root of both sides:Solve each equation:(x1)2x1x=5=5 and x1=5=1+5 and x=15

Answer: x3.24 and x1.24

Solve Applications Using Quadratic Functions and Square Roots

Quadratic equations are needed to solve many real-world problems. In this section, we’ll examine problems about objects falling under the influence of gravity. When objects are dropped from a height, they have no initial velocity; the force that makes them move towards the ground is due to gravity. The acceleration of gravity on earth is given by the equation

g=9.8 m/s2org=32 ft/s2

The negative sign indicates a downward direction. We can assume that gravity is constant for the problems we’ll be examining, because we will be staying close to the surface of the earth. The acceleration of gravity decreases as an object moves very far from the earth. It is also different on other celestial bodies such as the moon.

The equation that shows the height of an object in free fall is


The term y0 represents the initial height of the object, t is time, and g is the constant representing the force of gravity. You then plug in one of the two values for g above, depending on whether you want the answer in feet or meters. Thus the equation works out to y=4.9t2+y0 if you want the height in meters, and y=16t2+y0 if you want it in feet.

Example C

How long does it take a ball to fall from a roof to the ground 25 feet below?


Since we are given the height in feet, use equation:The initial height is y0=25 feet, so:The height when the ball hits the ground is y=0, so:Solve for t:yy016t2t2t=16t2+y0=16t2+25=16t2+25=25=2516=54 or t=54

Since only positive time makes sense in this case, it takes the ball 1.25 seconds to fall to the ground.

Example D

A rock is dropped from the top of a cliff and strikes the ground 7.2 seconds later. How high is the cliff in meters?


Since we want the height in meters, use equation:The time of flight is t=7.2 seconds:The height when the ball hits the ground is y=0, so:Simplify:yy00=4.9t2+y0=4.9(7.2)2+y0=4.9(7.2)2+y0=254+y0 so y0=254

The cliff is 254 meters high.

Watch this video for help with the Examples above.

CK-12 Foundation: 1005 Applications Using Square Roots


  • The solutions of a quadratic equation are often called the roots or zeros.

Guided Practice

Victor throws an apple out of a window on the 10th floor which is 120 feet above ground. One second later Juan throws an orange out of a 6th floor window which is 72 feet above the ground. Which fruit reaches the ground first, and how much faster does it get there?


Let’s find the time of flight for each piece of fruit.


Since we have the height in feet, use this equation:The initial height is y0=120 feet:The height when the ball hits the ground is y=0, so:Solve for t:y=16t2+y0y=16t2+1200=16t2+12016t2=120t2=12016=7.5t=2.74 or t=2.74 seconds


The initial height is y0=72 feet:Solve for t:0=16t2+7216t2=72t2=7216=4.5t=2.12 or t=2.12 seconds

The orange was thrown one second later, so add 1 second to the time of the orange: t=3.12 seconds

The apple hits the ground first. It gets there 0.38 seconds faster than the orange.


Solve the following quadratic equations.

  1. x2=11
  2. 5x2=0.01
  3. x26=0
  4. x220=0
  5. 3x2+14=0
  6. (x6)2=5
  7. (x+10)2=2
  8. Susan drops her camera in the river from a bridge that is 400 feet high. How long is it before she hears the splash?
  9. It takes a rock 5.3 seconds to splash in the water when it is dropped from the top of a cliff. How high is the cliff in meters?
  10. Nisha drops a rock from the roof of a building 50 feet high. Ashaan drops a quarter from the top story window, 40 feet high, exactly half a second after Nisha drops the rock. Which hits the ground first?


quadratic function

quadratic function

A quadratic function is a function that can be written in the form f(x)=ax^2 + bx + c, where a, b, and c are real constants and a\ne 0.
Square Root

Square Root

The square root of a term is a value that must be multiplied by itself to equal the specified term. The square root of 9 is 3, since 3 * 3 = 9.

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Difficulty Level:
At Grade
Date Created:
Oct 01, 2012
Last Modified:
Apr 11, 2016
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