# What Is the Difference Between a Quadratic and a Linear Graph? ••• SolStock/E+/GettyImages
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Students are often tripped up by the difference between quadratic and linear graphs. However, the shapes and equations of linear and quadratic graphs are very easy to recognize with practice. The graph shapes are dictated by the equations that create them. Following some simple guidelines will help you to recognize the differences between these equations and their graph shapes.

## Linear Graph Forms

Linear graphs are always shaped like straight lines, which can have either positive or negative slopes. Linear graphs always follow the equation y = mx + b, where "m" is the slope of the graph and "b" is the y-intercept, or the number where the line crosses the y-axis. If "m" is positive, then the line slopes upward from left to right. If "m" is negative, then the line slopes downward from left to right.

## First Order Equations

Any line graph acts as a first order equation, which is an equation where "x," the variable, is raised to the first power. In the equation y = mx + b, there is no visible exponent attached to the "x." However, all numbers with no visible exponent are raised to the first power. Therefore, x = x^1 in a linear equation and its graph is a straight line.