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Rational Functions: Zeros, Holes, and Vertical Asymptotes (Lesson 2.6 Day 2)

Unit 2 - Day 12

​Learning Objectives​
  • Distinguish between vertical asymptotes and holes

  • Use intercepts, asymptotes, and holes to sketch rational functions

  • Find the domain of a rational function

Quick Lesson Plan
Activity: The “Hole” Truth



Lesson Handout

Answer Key

Experience First

Today students look at rational functions from a more analytical perspective and think about how zeros, holes, and vertical asymptotes are related to one another and how they are represented in an equation and graph.


Allow students opportunities to make their own conjecture about when a hole versus a vertical asymptote will occur and avoid rushing in too early to summarize the findings. As students work on question 7, consider playing devil’s advocate and arguing against whoever the students agree with. Sound as convincing as possible! “I thought we always learned that if the numerator is zero then we have a zero of a function, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be a zero!” or “But we’re dividing by zero, is that even allowed??”

Formalize Later

This lesson, like yesterday’s, is foundational to students’ understanding of limits in AP Calculus. In the future, students will identify the y-value of a hole as the value of a limit even when the output of the function is undefined there. Furthermore, students must understand the important difference between a function output of 0/k, k/0 and 0/0 for some constant k. The first denotes a zero of a function, the second a vertical asymptote, and the third an indeterminate form which requires more exploration.


On a technical note, students may be quick to cancel the identical factors in the numerator and denominator but emphasize to students that there is one important difference between the simplified version and the original version, namely what’s happening at x=2. Have students graph both on their calculator and compare the two graphs. They should look identical except for the hole at x=2. Note that the two functions are not exactly equivalent so it is technically incorrect to set them equal to each other. You can say that the “simplified” version has very similar behavior to the original function, EXCEPT at x=2. When finding the y-value of the hole, remember that the y-value is not the output of the function at the given x-value (since the function is undefined there) but simply the vertical location of the hole.

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