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Intermediate Value Theorem

The idea behind the Intermediate Value Theorem is this:


When we have two points connected by a continuous
curve:

one point below the line

the other point above the line

... then there will be at least one place where the curve
crosses the line!

Well of course we must cross the line to get from A to B!


Now that you know the idea, let's look more closely at the details.

Continuous
The curve must be continuous ... no gaps or jumps in it.
Continuous is a special term with an exact definition in calculus, but here we will use
this simplified definition:

we can draw it without lifting our pen from the paper

More Formal
Here is that idea stated more formally:

When:

The curve is the function

which is

and

y = f(x),

continuous on the interval [a, b],

w is a number between f(a) and f(b),

Then ...

... there must be at least one value c within [a, b] such that f(c) = w
In other words the function

y = f(x) at some point must be w = f(c)

Notice that:

w is between f(a) and f(b), which leads to ...

c must be between a and b

At Least One
It also says "at least one value c", which means
we could have more.
Here, for example, are 3 points where f(x)=w.

How Is This Useful?


Whenever we can show that:

there is a point above a line

and a point below a line, and

that the curve is continuous,

we can then safely say "yes, there is a value somewhere in between that is on the line".

Example: is there a solution to x5 - 2x3 - 2 = 0 between x=0 and x=2?


At x=0:

05 - 2 03 - 2 = -2
At x=2:

25 - 2 23 - 2 = 14
Now we know:
at x=0, the curve is below zero

at x=2, the curve is above zero

And, being a polynomial, the curve will be continuous,


so somewhere in between, the curve must cross through y=0

Yes, there is a solution to x5 - 2x3 - 2 = 0 in the interval [0, 2]

An Interesting Thing!
The Intermediate Value Theorem Can Fix a Wobbly Table
If your table is wobbly because of uneven ground ...

... just rotate the table to fix it!


The ground must be

continuous (no steps such as

poorly laid tiles).

Why does this work?


We can always have 3 legs on the ground, it is the 4th leg that is the trouble.
Imagine we are rotating the table, and the 4th leg could somehow go into the ground
(like sand):

at some point it will be above the ground

at another point it will be below the ground

So there must be some point where the 4th leg perfectly touches the ground and the
table won't wobble.

(The famous Martin Gardner wrote about this in Scientific American. There is also a very
complicated proof somewhere).

Another One

At some point during a round-trip you will be


exactly as high as where you started.
(It only works if you don't start at the highest or lowest point.)
The idea is:

at some point you will be higher than where you started

at another point you will be lower than where you started

So there must be a point in between where you are exactly as high as where you
started.
Oh, and your path must be continuous, no disappearing and reappearing somewhere
else.
The same thing happens with temperature, pressure, and so on.

And There's More!


If you follow a circular path ... somewhere on that circle there will be points that are:

directly opposite each other

and at the same height!

two points that are


directly opposite and at same height

Continuous Functions
A function is continuous when its graph is a single unbroken curve ...

... that you could draw without lifting your pen from the paper.
That is not a formal definition, but it helps you understand the idea.
Here is a continuous function:

Examples
So what is not continuous (also called discontinuous) ?
Look out for holes, jumps or vertical asymptotes (where the function heads up/down
towards infinity).

Not Continuous

Not Continuous

Not Continuous

(hole)

(jump)

(vertical asymptote)

More Formally !
We can define continuous using Limits (it helps to read that page first):

A function f is continuous when, for every value c in its Domain:


f(c) is defined, and:

"the limit of f(x) as x approaches c equals f(c)"


The limit says:

"as x gets closer and closer to c


then f(x) gets closer and closer to f(c)"

And we have to check from both directions:

as x approaches c (from left)


then f(x) approaches f(c)

AND
as x approaches c (from right)
then f(x) approaches f(c)

If we get different values from left and right (a "jump"), then the limit does not exist!

How to Use:
Make sure that, for all x values:

f(x) is defined

and the limit at x equals f(x)

Here are some examples:

Example: f(x) = (x2-1)/(x-1) for all Real Numbers


The function is undefined when x=1:
(x2-1)/(x-1) = (12-1)/(1-1) = 0/0
So it is not a continuous function
Let us change the domain:

Example: g(x) = (x2-1)/(x-1) over the interval x<1

Almost the same function, but now it is over an interval that does not include x=1.
So now it is a continuous function (does not include the "hole")

Example: How about this piecewise function:

which looks like:

It is defined at x=1, because h(1)=2 (no "hole")


But at x=1 you can't say what the limit is, because there are two competing answers:
"2" from the left, and

"1" from the right

so in fact the limit does not exist at x=1 (there is a "jump")


And so the function is not continuous.
But:

Example: How about the piecewise function absolute value:

which looks like:

At x=0 it has a very pointy change!


But it is still defined at x=0, because f(0)=0 (so no "hole"),
And the limit as you approach x=0 (from either side) is also 0 (so no "jump"),
So it is in fact continuous.

Find Limits of Functions in Calculus


Find the limits of various functions using different methods. Several Examples with detailed
solutions are presented. More exercises with answers are at the end of this page.
Example 1: Find the limit

Solution to Example 1:

Note that we are looking for the limit as x approaches 1 from the left
(values smaller than 1). Hence
x<1
x-1<0

If x - 1 < 0 then
| x - 1 | = - (x - 1)

Substitute | x - 1 | by - (x - 1), factor the numerator to write the limit as


follows

Simplify to obtain

=-4
Example 2: Find the limit

Solution to Example 2:

Although the limit in question is the ratio of two polynomials, x = 5


makes both the numerator and denominator equal to zero. We need to factor both
numerator and denominator as shown below.

Simplify to obtain

= 10 / 11
Example 3: Calculate the limit

Solution to Example 3:

We need to look at the limit from the left of 2 and the limit from the
right of 2. As x approaches 2 from the left
x - 2 < 0 hence
|x - 2| = -(x - 2)

Substitute to obtain the limit from the left of 2 as follows

=-8

As x approaches 2 from the right x - 2 > 0 hence


|x - 2| = x - 2

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Substitute to obtain the limit from the right of 2 as follows

=8

The limit from the right of 2 and the limit from the left of 2 are not equal
therefore the given limit DOES NOT EXIST.

Example 4: Calculate the limit


Solution to Example 4:

As x approaches -1, cube root x + 1 approaches 0 and ln (x+1)


approaches - infinity hence an indeterminate form 0 . infinity

Let us rewrite the limit so that it is of the infinity/infinity indeterminate


form.

Example 5: Find the limit

Solution to Example 5:

We now use L'hopital's Rule and find the limit.

As x gets larger x + 1 gets larger and e^(1/(x+1)-1) approaches 0


hence an indeterminate form infinity.0

Let us rewrite the limit so that it is of the 0/0 indeterminate form.

Apply the l'hopital's theorem to find the limit.

=-1
Example 6: Find the limit

Solution to Example 6:

As x approaches 9, both numerator and denominator approach 0.


Multiply both numerator and denominator by the conjugate of the numerator.

Expand and simplify.

and now find the limit.

=1/6
Example 7: Find the limit

Solution to Example 7:

The range of the cosine function is.

-1 <= cos x <= 1

Divide all terms of the above inequality by x, for x positive.


-1 / x <= cos x / x <= 1 / x

Now as x takes larger values without bound (+infinity) both -1 / x and 1


/ x approaches 0. Hence by the squeezing theorem the above limit is given by

Example 8: Find the limit

Solution to Example 8:

As t approaches 0, both the numerator and denominator approach 0


and we have the 0 / 0 indeterminate form. Hence the l'hopital theorem is used to calculate
the above limit as follows

Example 9: Find the limit

Solution to Example 9:

We first factor out 16 x 2 under the square root of the denominator and
take out of the square root and rewrite the limit as

Since x approaches larger positive values (infinity) | x | = x. Simplify


and find the limt.

=3/4
Example 10: Find the limit

Solution to Example 10:

As x approaches 2 from the left then x - 2 approaches 0 from the left or


x - 2 < 0. The numerator approaches 5 and the denominator approaches 0 from the left
hence the limit is given by

Example 11: Find the limit

Solution to Example 11:

Factor x 2 in the denominator and simplify.

As x takes large values (infinity), the terms 2/x and 1/x 2 approaches 0
hence the limit is

=3/4
Example 12: Find the limit

Solution to Example 12:

Factor x 2 in the numerator and denominator and simplify.

As x takes large values (infinity), the terms 1/x and 1/x 2 and
3/x 2 approaches 0 hence the limit is

=0/2=0
Example 13: Find the limit

Solution to Example 13:

Multiply numerator and denominator by 3t.

Use limit properties and theorems to rewrite the above limit as the
product of two limits and a constant.

We now calculate the first limit by letting T = 3t and noting that when t
approaches 0 so does T. We also use the fact that sin T / T approaches 1 when T
approaches 0. Hence

The second limit is easily calculated as follows

The final value of the given limit is

Example 14: Find the limit


Solution to Example 14:

Factor x 2 inside the square root and use the fact that sqrt(x 2) = | x |.

Since x takes large values (infinity) then | x | = x. Hence the


indeterminate form

Multiply numerator and denominator by the conjugate and simplify

Factor x out of the numerator and denominator and simplify

As x gets larger, the terms 1/x and 1/x2 approach zero and the limit is

=1/2
Example 15: Find the limit

Solution to Example 15:

Let z = 1 / x so that as x get large x approaches 0. Substitute and


calculate the limit as follows.

Exercises: Calculate the following limits


1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

Solutions to Above Exercises:


1) 3
2) 1
3) 1
4) 1/4
5) 0
6) 4