Absolute Value Inequalities
Remember, absolute value means distance from zero on a number line. | x| < 4 means that x is a number that is less than 4 units from zero on a number line (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Less than 4 from zero.
The solutions are the numbers to the right of –4 and to the left of 4 and could be indicated as
| x| > 4 means that x is a number that is more than 4 units from zero on a number line (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. More than 4 from 0.
The solutions are the numbers to the left of –4 or to the right of 4 and are indicated as
{ x| x < –4 or x > 4}
| x| < 0 has no solutions, whereas | x| > 0 has as its solution all real numbers except 0. | x| > –1 has as its solution all real numbers, because after taking the absolute value of any number, that answer is either zero or positive and will always be greater than –1.
The following is a general approach for solving absolute value inequalities of the form
Example 1
Solve for x: |3 x – 5| < 12.
The solution set is
The graph of the solution set is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. x is greater than and less than .
Example 2
Solve this disjunction for x: |5 x + 3| > 2.
The solution set is . The graph of the solution set is shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. x is less than –1 or greater than .
Example 3
Solve for x: |2 x + 11| < 0.
There is no solution for this inequality.
Example 4
Solve for x: |2 x + 11| > 0.
The solution is all real numbers except for the solution to 2 x + 11 = 0. Therefore,
The solution of the set is . The graph of the solution set is shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5. All numbers except .
Example 5
Solve for x: 7|3 x + 2| + 5 > 4.
First, isolate the e xpression involving the absolute value symbol.
The solution set is all real numbers. ( Note: The absolute value of any number is always zero or a positive value. Therefore, the absolute value of any number is always greater than a negative value.) The graph of the solution set is shown in Figure 6.
Figure 6. The set of all numbers.