Q:

# The graphs shown are of the form y = ax2. Which graph has the smallest value for a?

Accepted Solution

A:
$$y= x^{2}$$ is a parabola (looks like the letter U).

The letter a represents the coefficient of $$x^{2}$$ and it controls two things (1) how wide or narrow the parabola is and (2) whether it is concave up (like a U) or concave down (like an up-side-down).

The absolute value of a (the number without the sign) controls how wide or narrow it is. If the absolute value is a fraction less than 1 the graph gets wider. The smaller the absolute value of the fraction the wider the graph gets.

If the absolute value of a is greater than 1 the graph gets narrower (it gets skinnier). The bigger the absolute value the narrower the graph.

So, if all the graphs look like a U (concave up) then the one with the smallest a is the one that is the widest.

The a also controls whether the graph is concave up or concave down. If a is negative

If a is negative the graph is concave down so any graph that is concave down has a smaller value of a than any graph that is concave up. However, if the graph is concave down the one with the smallest a would be the most narrow one.

So to find the one with the smallest a...
If they are all concave up (like a U) pick the widest one
and
If they are not all concave up pick the narrowest one that is concave down (looks like an upside down U)