We multiply two rational numbers by multiplying their numerators and multiplying
their denominators. For example,
Instead of reducing the rational number after multiplying, it is often easier to reduce
before multiplying. We first factor all terms, then divide out the common factors,
then multiply:
When we multiply rational numbers, we use the following definition.
Multiplication of Rational Numbers
If
and
are rational numbers, then
We multiply rational expressions in the same way that we multiply rational
numbers: Factor all polynomials, divide out the common factors, then multiply the
remaining factors.
Example 1
Multiplying rational expressions
Find each product of rational expressions.
Solution
a) First factor the coefficients in each numerator and denominator:


Factor. 


Divide out the common factors. 


Quotient rule 
Caution
Do not attempt to divide out the x in
. This expression
cannot be reduced because x is not a factor of both terms in the denominator.
Compare this expression to the following:
In Example 2(a) we will multiply a rational expression and a polynomial. For
Example 2(b) we will use the rule for factoring the difference of two cubes.
Example 2
Multiplying rational expressions
Find each product.
Solution
a) First factor the polynomials completely:





Divide out the common factors. 


Multiply. 
b) Note that a  b is a factor of a^{3}  b^{3} and b  a occurs in the denominator. We
can factor b  a as 1(a  b) to get a common factor:
