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We like to say that y is the "dependent variable" and x is the "independent variable".

This means that x

is independent, it can take up any value you want, as long as it agrees with the definition. The variable y
depends on the value that x takes.

This is only a convention. There is no reason why x couldn't be the dependent variable. But this is a
useful convention.

In this case, we say that y is a function of x. We write this as:

We read that "y equals f of x".

These are the fundamentals of mathematical functions. To keep learning more, follow some of the
following links.

These are the things I want you to leave with:

In calculus we study quantities that change.

We call quantities that change "variables".
If one variable is connected to another in some way, we say that one is a function of the other.
There are many ways to express functions: equations, graphs, tables.
To have a function correctly defined, we must specify which values x can take.
We write y = f(x) and read "y equals f of x".

To learn more about functions:

What is a Function and How to Solve Simple Problems

Develop an intuitive idea of what is a function and learn how to solve problems easily. Many example s
and exersices for you.

Domain of a Function: Understanding and Finding It

The idea behind the domain of a function is pretty simple, but it can be tricky to actually find them at
first. Here we'll delve into the intuition and solve problems step by step...

Composite Functions Made Clear and Examples

Composite functions very rarely are explained properly, yet it is essential for you to understand them if
you want to master calculus. Here we'll make them clear and do some examples...

What is a Function? A Simple Approach

There are many ways to understand what is a function. One way that is very useful is to consider it a
rule, which given an input, gives an output. This way of looking at functions is very useful in calculus,
and we'll be using it almost always.

What do I mean by a rule which asigns an output to an input? Consider a box, like the one below:

The box receives an "x" and gives the output "f(x)".

The functions we use in calculus are rules that relate numbers. So, in our case, the "x" in the box
represents any real number.

I'll give you an example. Let's make x equal to 1. Then,

In this case, we say that the function f(x) is evaluated at 1. We read f(1) "f of 1".

An actual function may look like this:

If we make x equal to 1, we have:

Me Example
You may already have an idea of what is a function after taking algebra. When think ing about functions
you probably think only about numbers.

Don't think that functions are only about numbers. In fact, almost anything can be considered a function!

Here are some hilarious examples of functions. I saw Salman Khan from the KhanAcademy teach using
them, and I found them very useful.

Let's say that I am a function. Let's study the Pablo function. In case you don't know, Pablo is my name.

What will happen if you give the Pablo function the input "food"? Let's see:

Pablo(food) = calculus pages

If you give me food, I'll output calculus pages!

Now, let's consider the "you" function. Let's give "you" the input "calculus pages":

You(calculus pages) = A's on your exams

You output A's on your exams.

Now, let's see what this expression means:

You(Pablo(food)) = ?

This may seem convoluted, but is very simple. Let's replace Pablo(food) by its equal, "calculus pages":

You(Pablo(food)) = You(calculus pages) = A's on your exams

You may or may not find these examples useful. I found them hilarious when I saw them.

They are useful to show what is a function and that they are not limited to relationships between

Solved Problem 1
Let's do some function problems. Let's say that:

What is f(0)? Simple, right?

What is f(-1)?

Solved Problem 2
Now, let's a do a slightly more complicated problem. Until now, to design a function we've been using
only the letter f, as in f(x).

When we have more than one function, we need other letters to name the functions. The favorites are "g"
and "h".

In this problem we have three functions:

The question is:

Looks complicated, doesn't it?

Let's tackle it by parts. First, let's do g(3):

Now, we need f(0) to have g(3) complete. Let's find that:

Putting f(0) into equation (1) we have:

And finally:

Solved Problem 3
Here we have another interesting problem:

Let's think. What is f(x)? It is 1/(1+x). So,

Now, let's find this:

After doing the first one, this is easy:

Here's a little exercise for you:


There are many ways to understand what is a function, because it is a very general concept.
One way that is very useful is as a box, which given an input, gives an output.
Do some function problems!
Finding the Domain of a Function Step by Step
What is the domain of a function? In what is a function we saw that we can think of a function as a rule.
This rule, given an input, gives an output.

You could also say that it is a rule that "maps" the input to the output. In calculus, we often use this

This means that "y" is a function of "x". Here, x is the input, often called the independent variable. And
y is the output, and it is called the dependent variable.

So, back to the domain of a function. What is it? It is just the set of values that x can take. You can think
of the domain as a bag. This bag contains all the x's you can choose as input for the function.

The domain of a function can be defined explicitly or implicitly, but it is always defined.

Example 1
As an example of a domain defined explicitly, let's say I give you the expression:

Here I tell you that x must be greater than 0. You can't choose any x. In the bag you only have positive

On the other hand, if I simply tell you that:

This function has an implicitly defined domain. I don't specify the valid values of x. So, it is implicit that
the domain is the set of all real numbers.

Example 2
A more interesting example of an implicitly defined domain is the function:

At first glance you may think this is the same as the previous case. However, what would happen if x=2?
We'll get

And 1/0 doesn't make sense. (if you're not completely sure why division by zero doesn't make sense,
here's a simple explanation).
Because f(2) doesn't make sense, we take the 2 out of the bag, and the domain is the set of all real
numbers that are not 2.

More examples...

Example 3
Let's consider the function:

In the real numbers, the squareroot of a number is defined only for positive numbers. The squareroots of
negative numbers do exist, but we won't consider them here.

So, our function is only defined when there is a positive number inside (or zero!) the square root sign.
That means that x-3 must be positive:

Adding 3 to both sides:

And the domain of this function is the set of all numbers equal or greater than 3. A fancy way of saying
this is that the domain is:

This is an interval that includes 3 and all numbers greater than 3.

The domain of a function is the set of all values the independent variable can take.
The domain can be specified explicitly or implicitly. When it is implicit, the domain is the set of all
real numbers for which the function makes sense.

Return from Domain of a Function to Mathematical Fun

Composite Functions Made Clear and Examples

Composite functions is the fancy name given to functions whose argument is also a function. Let's say I
give you the functions defined by the rules:
Here we can create a new function, using g(x) as the argument:

In this case we substitute the "x" in sin(x) by x squared to get:

This new composite function is written as:

And the rule is:

Now, a question for you:

What is the domain of f circle g?

Remember that we need to specify the domain to have a function properly defined.

In this case, f circle g is defined for all valid values of g(x). Why? Because g(x) is the argument!

But what are the valid values of g(x)? sin(x) is well defined for all real values of x. So, the domain is the
set of real numbers.

Let's do some examples...

Example 1
Let's say we have the functions:

We want to find:

We want the value of S circle P at y.

According to our definition of composite functions:

Now it looks simpler, doesn't it? What would our P(y) be? Well, just replace x by y:

So, we have:

Now, we just replace the x in:

by 2 to the y. So, we get:

And that is:

And that's our answer.

Composition of More Than Two Functions

Let's keep working the functions:

Now, let's say we want to find:

Because we have the (t) at the end, what we wanto to find is the value of the function at t. According to
our definition:

In the previous examples, we've found that:

Here, instead of why we have s(t). So, we just to replace and get:

But what is s(t)? It is:

So, finally:

What would had happened if we instead were asked to find:

What do you think? Will it be the same result? Let's find out:

We first need to find:

We again apply our definition:

And we know that:

So, replacing in the previous equation:

But, we also know:

So, we have:

And replacing that in what we were originally looking for:

And the function S just squares whatever it has as argument:

And it is the same result. This is a property of all composite functions:

No matter where you put the parenthesis, you get the same value.

That is, using function notation:

Because these two are equal, we usually just write:

Example 3
Now we'll solve the reverse of what we were doing previously. Let's say we have the function defined

And we want to express f in terms of our functions S, P and s:

We can solve this in two ways, but getting the same result. We have:

We can start analyzing the "outer" function sin. We have a function sin(something). Our s(x) is defined
as sin(x), so we have:
Ok, now we have to express 2 to the x using our functions. This one is easy. We already have:


Writing this in function notation:

What is the othe way of doing this problem? You could also had started repalcing first the 2 to the x. As
an exercise, you might want to do the same with the function:


A composite function is a function whose argument is another function.

When you have the composite of three functions, no matter where you put the parenthesis, you get
the same function.
Composite functions problems are not hard. You just need to get used to notation.