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Homework Help: Partial Fraction Decomposition

  1. Aug 31, 2014 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    To find the decomposition of a polynomial with a repeated factor in the denominator, you should separate them into (x+a)^1 + ... + (x+a)^n. But, my question is why?

    For example, why should you decompose it in the following way:
    [tex] \frac{x+2}{(x+1)(x+3)^2} = \frac{A}{x+1} + \frac{B}{x+3} + \frac{C}{(x+3)^2}[/tex]

    why, for example, isn't it decomposed into either of the following ways:
    [tex] \frac{x+2}{(x+1)(x+3)^2} = \frac{A}{x+1} + \frac{Bx+C}{(x+3)^2}[/tex]
    [tex] \frac{x+2}{(x+1)(x+3)^2} = \frac{A}{x+1} + \frac{B}{x+3}[/tex]
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 31, 2014 #2
    [tex]\frac{x+2}{(x+1)(x+3)^{2}}\equiv \frac{A}{(x+1)}+\frac{Bx+D}{(x+3)^{2}}[/tex]
    [tex]\equiv \frac{A}{(x+1)}+\frac{B(x+3)-3B+D}{(x+3)^{2}}[/tex]
    [tex]\equiv \frac{A}{(x+1)}+\frac{B}{(x+3)}+\frac{-3B+D}{(x+3)^{2}}[/tex]
    [tex]\equiv \frac{A}{(x+1)}+\frac{B}{(x+3)}+\frac{C}{(x+3)^{2}}[/tex]
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2014
  4. Aug 31, 2014 #3

    Ok thank you so much, I understand.

    But, you made a small mistake. I fixed it above
  5. Aug 31, 2014 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    You don't need to do this for repeated linear factors, so most of that work can be skipped. You can start directly from this and skip most of the work below:
    $$\frac{x+2}{(x+1)(x+3)^{2}}\equiv \frac{A}{x+1}+\frac{B}{x+3} + \frac{C}{(x + 3)^2}$$
    A numerator of Bx + D would be used for an irreducible quadratic factor such as x2 + 1.
  6. Aug 31, 2014 #5
    You are welcome.
  7. Aug 31, 2014 #6
    Yes, definitely, it can all be skipped but the question is specifically asking for why it works.
  8. Aug 31, 2014 #7


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    Either use long division on ##\displaystyle \ \frac{Bx+C}{x+3}\,, \ ## and then multiply the result by
    ##\displaystyle \ \frac{1}{x+3}\ .##
    You could use the following rather than long division. Mark44 seems to be a big fan of it.

    Rewrite ##\displaystyle \ \frac{x+K}{x+3}\ ## as ##\displaystyle \ \frac{x+3+K-3}{x+3}\ ## which splits into ##\displaystyle \ \frac{x+3}{x+3}+\frac{C-3}{x+3}\,, \ ## the first term being 1 .

    (Mess around with the B & C as you please.) ​

    Alternatively, use a common denominator to combine ##\ \displaystyle \frac{B}{x+3} + \frac{C}{(x+3)^2}\ ## into one rational expression.
  9. Sep 1, 2014 #8


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    For the latter case, if we multiply by (x+3), the lefthand side becomes
    $$\frac{x+2}{(x+1)(x+3)}$$ while the righthand side becomes
    $$A \frac{x+3}{x+1} + B.$$ The expression on the lefthand side has a vertical asymptote at ##x=-3##, but the one from the righthand side doesn't, which means the two sides can't be equal for all ##x##. This implies that the original decomposition isn't valid.
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