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5.18: Modeling with Quadratic Functions

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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On reduced-gravity flights, airplanes fly in large parabolic arcs. Determine the quadratic equation of best fit for the data set below that represents the arc in which the airplane flies.

\begin{align*}x \end{align*}(Time in Sec.) 0 20 33 45
\begin{align*}y \end{align*} (Altitude in 1000 feet) 24 29 33 29

Source: Nasa.gov (http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/what-is-microgravity-58.html)

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James Sousa: Ex: Quadratic Regression on the TI84 - Stopping Distance


When finding the equation of a parabola, you can use any of the three forms. If you are given the vertex and any other point, you only need two points to find the equation. However, if you are not given the vertex you must have at least three points to find the equation of a parabola.

Example A

Find the equation of the parabola with vertex (-1, -4) and passes through (2, 8).

Solution: Use vertex form and substitute -1 for \begin{align*}h\end{align*} and -4 for \begin{align*}k\end{align*}.

\begin{align*}y &=a(x-(-1))^2-4\\ y &=a(x+1)^2-4\end{align*}

Now, take the second point and plug it for \begin{align*}x\end{align*} and \begin{align*}y\end{align*} and solve for \begin{align*}a\end{align*}.

\begin{align*}8 &=a(2+4)^2-4\\ 12 &=36a\\ \frac{1}{3} &=a\end{align*}

The equation is \begin{align*}y=\frac{1}{3}(x+1)^2-4\end{align*}.

Like in the Analyzing Scatterplots lesson, we can also fit a set of data to a quadratic equation. In this concept, we will be using quadratic regression and a TI-83/84.

Example B

Determine the quadratic equation of best fit for the data set below.

\begin{align*}x\end{align*} 0 4 7 12 17
\begin{align*}y\end{align*} 7 9 10 8 3

Solution: We need to enter the \begin{align*}x-\end{align*}coordinates as a list of data and the \begin{align*}y-\end{align*}coordinates as another list.

1. Press STAT.

2. In EDIT, select 1:Edit…. Press ENTER.

3. The List table appears. If there are any current lists, you will need to clear them. To do this, arrow up to L1 so that it is highlighted (black). Press CLEAR, then ENTER. Repeat with L2, if necessary.

4. Now, enter the data into the lists. Enter all the entries into L1 \begin{align*}(x)\end{align*} first and press enter between each entry. Then, repeat with L2 and \begin{align*}y\end{align*}.

5. Press \begin{align*}2^{nd}\end{align*} MODE (QUIT).

Now that we have everything in the lists, we can use quadratic regression to determine the equation of best fit.

6. press STAT and then arrow over to the CALC menu.

7. Select 5:QuadReg. Press ENTER.

8. You will be taken back to the main screen. Type (L1,L2) and press ENTER. L1 is \begin{align*}2^{nd}\end{align*} 1, L2 is \begin{align*}2^{nd}\end{align*} 2.

9. The following screen appears. The equation of best fit is \begin{align*}y=-0.64x^2+0.86x+6.90\end{align*}.

If you would like to plot the equation on the scatterplot follow the steps from the Finding the Equation of Best Fit using a Graphing Calculator concept. The scatterplot and parabola are to the right.

This technique can be applied to real-life problems. You can also use technique to find the equation of any parabola, given three points.

Example C

Find the equation of the parabola that passes through (1, 11), (2, 20), (-3, 75).

Solution: You can use the same steps from Example B to find the equation of the parabola. Doing this, you should get the equation is \begin{align*}y=5x^2-6x+12\end{align*}.

This problem can also be done by solving three equations, with three unknowns. If we plug in \begin{align*}(x, y)\end{align*} to \begin{align*}y=ax^2+bx+c\end{align*}, we would get:

\begin{align*}11 &=a+b+c\\ 20 &=4a+2b+c\\ 75 &=9a-3b+c\end{align*}

Use linear combinations to solve this system of equations (see Solving a System in Three Variables Using Linear Combinations concept). This problem will be finished in the Problem Set.

Intro Problem Revisit Use your calculator to find the quadratic equation of best fit for the given table.

\begin{align*}x \end{align*}(Time in Sec.) 0 20 33 45
\begin{align*}y \end{align*} (Altitude in 1000 feet) 24 29 33 29

\begin{align*}y = -0.0081x^2 + 0.495x + 23.6987\end{align*} is the quadratic equation of best fit for the data.

Guided Practice

1. Find the equation of the parabola with \begin{align*}x-\end{align*}intercepts (4, 0) and (-5, 0) that passes through (-3, 8).

2. A study compared the speed, \begin{align*}x\end{align*} (in miles per hour), and the average fuel economy, \begin{align*}y\end{align*} (in miles per gallon) of a sports car. Here are the results.

speed 30 40 50 55 60 65 70 80
fuel economy 11.9 16.1 21.1 22.2 25.0 26.1 25.5 23.2

Plot the scatterplot and use your calculator to find the equation of best fit.


1. Because we are given the intercepts, use intercept form to find the equation.

\begin{align*}y =a(x-4)(x+5)\end{align*} Plug in (-3,8) and solve for \begin{align*}a\end{align*}

\begin{align*}8 &=a(-3-4)(-3+5)\\ 8 &=-14a\\ -\frac{4}{7} &=a\end{align*}

The equation of the parabola is \begin{align*}y=- \frac{4}{7}(x-4)(x+5)\end{align*}.

2. Plotting the points, we have:

Using the steps from Example B, the quadratic regression equation is \begin{align*}y=-0.009x^2+1.24x-18.23\end{align*}.


Quadratic Regression
The process through which the equation of best fit is a quadratic equation.


Find the equation of the parabola given the following points. No decimal answers.

  1. vertex: (-1, 1) point: (1, -7)
  2. \begin{align*}x-\end{align*}intercepts: -2, 2 point: (4, 3)
  3. vertex: (9, -4) point: (5, 12)
  4. \begin{align*}x-\end{align*}intercepts: 8, -5 point: (3, 20)
  5. \begin{align*}x-\end{align*}intercepts: -9, -7 point: (-3, 36)
  6. vertex: (6, 10) point: (2, -38)
  7. vertex: (-4, -15) point: (-10, 1)
  8. vertex: (0, 2) point: (-4, -12)
  9. \begin{align*}x-\end{align*}intercepts: 3, 16 point: (7, 24)

Use a graphing calculator to find the quadratic equation (in standard form) that passes through the given three points. No decimal answers.

  1. (-4, -51), (-1, -18), (4, -43)
  2. (-5, 131), (-1, -5), (3, 51)
  3. (-2, 9), (2, 13), (6, 41)
  4. Challenge Finish computing Example C using linear combinations.

For the quadratic modeling questions below, use a graphing calculator. Round any decimal answers to the nearest hundredth.

  1. The surface of a speed bump is shaped like a parabola. Write a quadratic model for the surface of the speed bump shown.
  2. Physics and Photography Connection Your physics teacher gives you a project to analyze parabolic motion. You know that when a person throws a football, the path is a parabola. Using your camera, you take an long exposure picture of a friend throwing a football. A sketch of the picture is below. You put the path of the football over a grid, with the \begin{align*}x-\end{align*}axis as the horizontal distance and the \begin{align*}y-\end{align*}axis as the height, both in 3 feet increments. The release point, or shoulder height, of your friend is 5 ft, 3 in and you estimate that the maximum height is 23 feet. Find the equation of the parabola.
  3. An independent study was done linking advertising to the purchase of an object. 400 households were used in the survey and the commercial exposure was over a one week period. See the data set below.
# of times commercial was shown, \begin{align*}x\end{align*} 1 7 14 21 28 35 42 49
# of households bought item, \begin{align*}y\end{align*} 2 25 96 138 88 37 8 6

a) Find the quadratic equation of best fit.

b) Why do you think the amount of homes that purchased the item went down after more exposure to the commercial?

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Quadratic Regression Quadratic regression is the process through which a quadratic equation is found that best fits a data set.

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Difficulty Level:
At Grade
Date Created:
Mar 12, 2013
Last Modified:
Sep 07, 2016
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