What is the difference between a factor of a quadratic equation and a zero of a quadratic equation?

8 years agoGenerally speaking, a factor is the component of a quadratic equation that gives you a zero. For example, if you have the quadratic equation \(x^2 - 4\), you can *factor* it into two parts: \[x^2 - 4 = (x + 2)(x - 2)\] \(x + 2\) and \(x - 2\) are the *factors*, and they give you the two *zeros*, which are 2 and -2. A zero is the value of x at which the parabola that the quadratic formula describes crosses the y axis (i.e., has a value of 0). A factor is a part of the equation. Multiplying all the factors together gives you the original equation.

8 years agoShadowfiend is correct, with one small "oops." The zeros are where the curve of the equation crosses the X-axis, not the y-axis. So in the example above, the parabola crosses the x-axis at 2 and -2; it crosses the y-axis at -4. (The constant term of a polynomial is always the y-intercept.)

8 years agoHah! Yes indeed, where it crosses the X axis. Thanks for the catch, LBickford :)

8 years ago