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Proportion


A proportion is simply an equality between two ratios (fractions). For example, the ratio of x to y is equal to the ratio of 3 to 2 is translated as xy = 32

or in ratio notation, x : y :: 3 : 2

Two variables are directly proportional if one is a constant multiple of the other:
y = kx
where k is a constant.

The above equation shows that as x increases (or decreases) so does y. This simple concept has numerous applications in mathematics. For example, in constant velocity problems, distance is directly proportional to time: d = vt, where v is a constant. Note, sometimes the word directly is suppressed.

 

Example 1:
If the ratio of y to x is equal to 3 and the sum of y and x is 80, what is the value of y?

(A) ––10
(B) ––2
(C) 5
(D) 20
(E) 60
 

Translating ““the ratio of y to x is equal to 3”” into an equation yields
yx = 3

Translating ““the sum of y and x is 80”” into an equation yields
y + x = 80

Solving the first equation for y gives y = 3x. Substituting this into the second equation yields
3x + x = 80
4x = 80
x = 20

Hence, y = 3x = 3(20) = 60. The answer is (E).

In many word problems, as one quantity increases (decreases), another quantity also increases (decreases). This type of problem can be solved by setting up a direct proportion.

 

Example 2:
If Biff can shape 3 surfboards in 50 minutes, how many surfboards can he shape in 5 hours?

(A) 16
(B) 17
(C) 18
(D) 19
(E) 20

 

As time increases so does the number of shaped surfboards. Hence, we set up a direct proportion. First, convert 5 hours into minutes: 5 hours = 5 × 60 minutes = 300 minutes. Next, let x be the number of surfboards shaped in 5 hours. Finally, forming the proportion yields
350 = x300

3·30050 = x

18 = x

The answer is (C).

 

Example 3:
On a map, 1 inch represents 150 miles. What is the actual distance between two cities if they are 312 inches apart on the map?

(A) 225
(B) 300
(C) 450
(D) 525
(E) 600
 

As the distance on the map increases so does the actual distance. Hence, we set up a direct proportion. Let x be the actual distance between the cities. Forming the proportion yields

1 in150 mi = 312inx mi

x = 312×150

x = 525

The answer is (D).

Note, you need not worry about how you form the direct proportion so long as the order is the same on both sides of the equal sign. The proportion in Example 3 could have been written as 1 in312in = 150 mix mi

In this case, the order is inches to inches and miles to miles. However, the following is not a direct proportion because the order is not the same on both sides of the equal sign: 1 in150 mi = x mi312in In this case, the order is inches to miles on the left side of the equal sign but miles to inches on the right side.

If one quantity increases (or decreases) while another quantity decreases (or increases), the quantities are said to be inversely proportional. The statement ““y is inversely proportional to ” is written as

y = kx

where k is a constant.

Multiplying both sides of y = kx by x yields
yx = k

Hence, in an inverse proportion, the product of the two quantities is constant. Therefore, instead of setting ratios equal, we set products equal.

In many word problems, as one quantity increases (decreases), another quantity decreases (increases). This type of problem can be solved by setting up a product of terms.

 

Example 4:
If 7 workers can assemble a car in 8 hours, how long would it take 12 workers to assemble the same car?

(A) 3hrs
(B) 3 12 hrs
(C) 4 23 hrs
(D) 5hrs
(E) 6 13 hrs

 

As the number of workers increases, the amount time required to assemble the car decreases. Hence, we set the products of the terms equal. Let x be the time it takes the 12 workers to assemble the car. Forming the equation yields

7 • 8 = 12 • x
5612 = x
423 = x

The answer is (C).




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