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Determining Slope

Determining Slope

Author: Sophia Tutorial

This lesson will demonstrate how to determine slope.

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  • Algebraic Definition of Slope
  • Finding Slope from Two Points
  • Finding Slope from a Table of Values


Determining Slope

Algebraic Definition of Slope

The slope of a line measures its steepness.  A common way to think about the slope of a line is the "rise over run."  This means that we calculate a change in vertical position from one point to another, and divide it by the change in horizontal position between those two points.  Algebraically, we have the following formula for slope:


The numerator of the fraction, or the "rise" is the difference in y-coordinates from two points on the line, and the denominator of the fraction, or the "run" is the difference in x-coordinates from the same two points on the line.  As we can see in our formula, all that is needed to calculate the slope of a line are the coordinates to two points on the line. 


Finding Slope from Two Points

Let's find the slope of a line that passes through the points (–2, 4) and (4, 16). First, we need to define each point as Point 1 and Point 2, so that the x– and y– coordinates are used in the correct order in our formula. We will define Point 1 as (–2, 4) and Point 2 as (4, 16).  

It does not matter if we had decided to label Point 1 as (4, 16) and Point 2 as (–2, 4), our calculation for slope will be the same.  The important thing is to be consistent with which coordinates are subtracted in our calculation.  For example, (y1 – y2) / (x1 – x2)  would give the same result.  

To find the slope of the line that passes through (–2, 4) and (4, 16), the process is as follows:


Finding Slope from a Table of Values

If we are given a table of values that represent different x– and y– coordinate pairs to a line, we can calculate the slope of the line by choosing any two coordinate pairs, and plugging them into the formula for slope. 

Remember, all we need is two points to calculate the slope of the line.  We can choose any two rows here to represent x and y values to use in our formula.  To show the solution, let's choose the first and last sets of values: (4, 11) and (10, 53). 

Formulas to Know

m equals fraction numerator y subscript 2 minus y subscript 1 over denominator x subscript 2 minus x subscript 1 end fraction