Cubic Functions

A cubic function is one in the form f(x) = ax3 + bx2 + cx + d.

The "basic" cubic function, f(x) = x3, is graphed below.

y=x^3

The function of the coefficient a in the general equation is to make the graph "wider" or "skinnier", or to reflect it (if negative):

The constant d in the equation is the y-intercept of the graph.

graphs of y=x^3, y=x^3-2, and y=x^3+3

The effects of b and c on the graph are more complicated. However, if you can factor the right side of the equation, you can find one or more x-intercepts, and use these to sketch the graph. (Some cubics, however, cannot be factored.)

graph of y=(x+3)(x+1)(x-2)

A cubic function may have one, two or three x-intercepts, corresponding to the real roots of the related cubic equation.