# Equation of a line: The derivation of y = mx + b

We have discussed in context the origin (click here and here) of the linear equation $y = ax + b$, where $a$ and $b$ are real numbers.  We have also talked about the slope of a line and many of its properties. In this post, we will discuss the generalization of the equation of a line in the coordinate plane based on its slope and y-intercept.

We have learned that to get a slope of a line, we only need two points.  We have also learned that given two points on a line, its slope is described as the rise (difference in the y-coordinates) over the run (difference in x-coordinates).  Therefore, if we have two points with coordinates $(x_1,y_1)$ and $(x_2,y_2)$, the slope $m$ is  defined the formula $m = \displaystyle\frac{y_2 - y_1}{x_2 - x_1}$.

All the points on a vertical line have similar x-coordinates; therefore, the run ${x_2 - x_1}$ is equal to $0$ making $m$ undefined.  From here, we can conclude a vertical line has no slope.

Now, it is clear that every non-vertical line has a slope (can you see why?). It is also clear that every non-vertical line will always pass through the y-axis — in fact, both axes. If we let $y = b$ be the y-intercept of line $l$ (see blue line below), then the coordinates of f that point are $(0,b)$.  If we choose any point on line $l$ with coordinates $(x,y)$ , then we can get the slope $m$ of the line passing through the two points as shown in the figure. Therefore, the slope $m$ of any line passing through $(0,b)$ and $(x,y)$ is $y = mx + b$. This is the general equation of a line given a point (on the line) and its y-intercept.  This equation is called the slope-intercept form.

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