Introduction to Linear Functions

An upward view of bamboo trees

Figure 1. A bamboo forest in China (credit: “JFXie”/Flickr)

Imagine placing a plant in the ground one day and finding that it has doubled its height just a few days later. Although it may seem incredible, this can happen with certain types of bamboo species. These members of the grass family are the fastest-growing plants in the world. One species of bamboo has been observed to grow nearly 1.5 inches every hour. 1 In a twenty-four hour period, this bamboo plant grows about 36 inches, or an incredible 3 feet! A constant rate of change, such as the growth cycle of this bamboo plant, is a linear function.

Recall from Functions and Function Notation that a function is a relation that assigns to every element in the domain exactly one element in the range. Linear functions are a specific type of function that can be used to model many real-world applications, such as plant growth over time. In this chapter, we will explore linear functions, their graphs, and how to relate them to data.


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