Consider the standard form of a quadratic equation:
The last of these equations is the celebrated quadratic formula. It can also be written as:
Notice the term
Clearly there are three cases:
To apply the quadratic formula to a particular quadratic equation just convert the equation to standard form and substitute the appropriate values of , and in the formula. However, I believe it is more efficient and less error prone to make sure you understand the binomial formulas and the concept of completing the square and to solve a quadratic equation from scratch whenever you need to. Memorizing facts like the quadratic formula quickly becomes tedious and your memory may fail at an inopportune moment. On the other hand, there are of course formulas--like the distributive law , the binomial formulas, and the rules for manipulating powers --that you should be able to remember, but you do so because these formulas are simple and you use them so frequently that they become part of your consciousness.