EVALUATING LIMITS

An important application of determining the limit of a function is to understand the behavior of the graph of that function. You can answer the questions, "What happens at very large values of x?" "What happens at very small values of x?" and "Where are the horizontal or slant asymptotes?" The idea of a limit might have been introduced first to you in a college algebra class when talking about horizontal asymptotes. You may have been given the three cases for a horizontal asymptotes: a ( x) f ( x) = b( x) CASE 1: If degree a ( x ) > degree b ( x ) then there is no horizontal asymptote. Ex. f ( x ) = 4 x3 − 4 x 2 + 5 6x2 − 7 x + 2

The degree of the numerator a ( x ) is 3 and the degree of the denominator b ( x ) is 2. There is no horizontal asymptote. • CASE 2: If degree a ( x ) < degree b ( x ) then the horizontal asymptote is y = 0 . 2 x3 − 4 x 2 + 5 Ex. f ( x ) = 5 6 x − 7 x3 + 2 x 2 − 4 x + 1 The degree of the numerator a ( x ) is 3 and the degree of the denominator b ( x ) is 5. The horizontal asymptote is y = 0 .

CASE 3: If degree a ( x ) = degree b ( x ) then the horizontal asymptote is the ratio of the coefficients. Ex. f ( x ) =

4 x3 − 3x 2 + 2 7 x3 + 5 x 2 − x + 6

The degree of the numerator a ( x ) is 3 and the degree of the denominator b ( x ) is 3. The horizontal asymptote is y = degree terms.

4 , the ratio of the coefficients of the highest 7

1

revised 12/07

we can divide both the numerator and the denominator by that power. x →+∞ lim f ( x ) = lim 4 x3 − 4 x 2 + 5 x →+∞ 6 x 2 − 7 x + 2 When you are evaluating infinite limits first determine the highest power of x in the function. • CASE 1: If degree a ( x ) > degree b ( x ) then there is no horizontal asymptote. Using a crafty form of multiplication by one. In this case. ⎛ 4x − 4x + 5 ⎜ ⋅⎜ lim f ( x ) = lim x → +∞ x → +∞ 6 x 2 − 7 x + 2 ⎜ ⎝ 3 2 1 x3 1 x3 ⎞ ⎟ ⎟ ⎟ ⎠ 4 x3 4 x2 5 − 3 + 3 3 x x = lim x 2 x → +∞ 6 x 7x 2 − 3 + 3 x3 x x 4 5 + 3 1 x x = lim x → +∞ 6 7 2 − 2 + 3 1 x x x 4− We now must use the fact that as x gets very large 1 gets closer and closer to 0. f ( x ) = 4 x3 − 4 x 2 + 5 6x2 − 7 x + 2 This time we will take the limit as x approaches infinity. Let's look at the three cases again using limits. x 2 revised 12/07 . Ex. we need only take the limit of the function as x approaches positive or negative infinity. the highest power of x is to the third power.In each of these cases what is really being asked is "What does the graph approach at very large magnitudes of x?" Or in more technical terms: What is lim f ( x ) or lim f ( x ) ? x →∞ x →−∞ (the limit of the function as x approaches positive infinity or as x approaches negative infinity) Instead of memorizing the three cases.

So y = 0 is the horizontal asymptote. So there is no horizontal asymptote. • CASE 2: If degree a ( x ) < degree b ( x ) then the horizontal asymptote is y = 0 . f ( x ) = 5 6 x − 7 x3 + 2 x 2 − 4 x + 1 We can take the limit as x approaches infinity for this one as well. ⎛ ⎜ 2x − 4x + 5 ⋅⎜ lim f ( x ) = lim 5 x →+∞ x →+∞ 6 x − 7 x 3 + 2 x 2 − 4 x + 1 ⎜ ⎝ 3 2 1 x5 1 x5 ⎞ ⎟ ⎟ ⎟ ⎠ 2 x3 4 x 2 5 − 5 + 5 x5 x x = lim 5 3 2 x →+∞ 6 x 7 x 2x 4x 1 − 5 + 5 − 5+ 5 5 x x x x x 2 4 5 − + x 2 x3 x5 = lim x →+∞ 7 2 4 1 6− 2 + 3 − 4 + 5 x x x x = 0−0+0 0 = =0 6−0+0−0+0 6 The limit is 0 which means our graph approaches y = 0 for extreme values of x. 3 revised 12/07 . x →+∞ lim f ( x ) = 2 x3 − 4 x 2 + 5 6 x5 − 7 x3 + 2 x 2 − 4 x + 1 This time the highest power of x is 5 so we must divide by x5 .x →+∞ lim f ( x ) = lim x →+∞ 4−0+0 4 = = +∞ 0−0+0 0 (limit does not exist) The limit is undefined. 2 x3 − 4 x 2 + 5 Ex.

) The horizontal asymptote for this function is y = 4 . 7 4 revised 12/07 . ⎛ 4 x3 − 3x 2 + 2 ⎜ ⋅⎜ lim f ( x ) = lim 3 x →−∞ x →−∞ 7 x + 5 x 2 − x + 6 ⎜ ⎝ 1 x3 1 x3 ⎞ ⎟ ⎟ ⎟ ⎠ 4 x3 3x 2 2 − 3 + 3 x3 x x = lim x →−∞ 7 x 3 5x2 x 6 + 3 − 3+ 3 x3 x x x 3 2 + x1 x 3 = lim x →−∞ 5 1 6 7+ 1 − 2 + 3 x x x 4− As x approaches negative infinity 1 approaches 0. x = 4−0+0 4 = 7+0−0+0 7 (Notice that the same argument will work as x approaches positive infinity. f ( x ) = 4 x3 − 3x 2 + 2 7 x3 + 5 x 2 − x + 6 Let's take the limit as x approaches negative infinity.• CASE 3: If degree a ( x ) = degree b ( x ) then the horizontal asymptote is the ratio of the coefficients. x →−∞ lim f ( x ) = lim 4 x3 − 3x 2 + 2 x →−∞ 7 x 3 + 5 x 2 − x + 6 The highest power of x is to the third power so we will divide by x 3 . Ex.

Now let's try evaluating limits near particular x values. first try simply to substitute the number into the function and evaluate. x2 + 4 x − 5 4.We have confirmed the three cases. lim x 2 + 3 x − 5 lim x 2 + 3x − 5 = ( 6 ) + 3 ( 6 ) − 5 = 36 + 18 − 5 = 49 so the answer is 49. lim x−4 x→2 x + 6 x−4 2−4 2 1 1 so the answer is − = =− =− x→2 x + 6 2+6 8 4 4 x→6 lim 2. lim − x 3 + 5 = − ( −∞ ) + 5 = − ( −∞ ) + 5 = ∞ + 5 = ∞ . x →1 5. lim θ →0 tan 2 θ θ sin 2 θ sin θ sin θ = lim = lim ⋅ θ → 0 θ cos 2 θ θ →0 θ cos 2 θ = lim θ →0 sin θ θ ⋅ lim sin θ 0 = 1⋅ = 1⋅ 0 = 0 2 θ → 0 cos θ 1 5 revised 12/07 . 3 x →−∞ SECOND: Sometimes it is not possible to just evaluate the function because the function is not defined for that value. 1. FIRST: When solving limits. the limit does not exist. Sometimes this is all you need to do. 2 x →6 3. lim x →1 x −1 = lim x →1 ( x − 1)( x + 5) = lim x + 5 x −1 x →1 = lim x + 5 = 1 + 5 = 6 so the answer is 6. If this happens then try to simplify (factor or divide) the function before evaluating.

lim 2 x3 − 3x + 6 x →∞ 3 x 5 + 4 x 3 − 6 x − 1 1 x5 1 x5 ⎞ ⎟ ⎟ ⎟ ⎠ ⎛ ⎜ 2 x3 − 3x + 6 = lim 5 ⋅⎜ 3 x →∞ 3 x + 4 x − 6 x − 1 ⎜ ⎝ 2 x3 3x 6 2 3 6 − 5+ 5 − 4+ 5 5 2 x x x = 0=0 = lim 5 x 3x = lim x x →∞ 3 x 4 x 6 x 1 x →∞ 3 + 4 − 6 − 1 3 + 5 − 5− 5 5 x 2 x 4 x5 x x x x FOURTH: When all else fails.5 -1 -0. graph the function.THIRD: Whenever you are dealing with positive or negative infinity and a rational function (fractional).5 1 0. 1. if you are unable to factor.5 1 2 3 4 5 The limit from the left is -1. 6. Is the limit 1? Graphing the function makes the answer more clear. x →3 lim − x−3 x−3 = −1 x−3 x−3 The limit from the right is +1. 7. then divide each piece by the highest power of x in the function.5 -1 -1. x →3 lim + =1 6 revised 12/07 . lim x →3 x−3 x−3 In this function the absolute value sign may throw us off.

Since the two limits are not equal lim x →3 x−3 x−3 does not exist. x →−1 x + 1 9. lim x→2 −1 ( x − 2) 2 2 The limit from the left is −∞ . 8. lim −2 x x →−1 x + 1 3 2 1 -4 -2 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 2 4 The limit from the left is −∞ x →−1 lim− −2 x = −∞ x +1 −2 x = +∞ x +1 The limit from the right is +∞ x →−1 lim+ Since the two limits are not equal lim −2 x does not exist. x→2 lim− −1 ( x − 2) 2 = −∞ 7 revised 12/07 .

talk with your professor. 10. For a more in-depth study of limits. θ →0 lim− 1 − cosθ θ lim =0 The limit from the right is 0. TA. the limit does not exist. These are basic guidelines to follow when evaluating limits. Thus lim x→2 x→2 lim+ −1 ( x − 2) 2 = −∞ −1 ( x − 2) 2 = −∞ .3 The limit from the left is 0. ask about the delta-epsilon definition of a limit! 8 revised 12/07 .The limit from the right is −∞ . 1 − cosθ θ → 0+ θ =0 Thus lim θ →0 1 − cosθ θ = 0.3 2. lim θ →0 1 − cosθ θ -2. When you are ready for a challenge. or a UT Learning Center tutor about specific examples that reveal the nature of limits.

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