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Functions 1

Kelvin Soh
14th January 2014

Functions and their domains

A function, f , is a rule which assigns to each number, x, in its domain
exactly one number, f (x). It is often useful to view a function as a machine.
It takes in an input x and, based on the input, gives an output, f (x).

Picture credit: http://thelivingpearl.com

For example, for the equation y = x2 , y is a function of x. This is because

given any value of x, (e.g. -2), our equation tells us what y is with no
ambiguity (e.g. 4). Thus, we can write y = f (x) = x2 .
However, x in general is not a function of y. This is because if someone tells
us a y value (e.g. 4), we may not be able to tell exactly what x is (e.g. x
may be 2 or -2).
The domain of f , usually denoted Df is the set of inputs we wish to consider.
This is important because our rule (i.e. function) may not work for some
values. For example, f (x) = x1 does not make sense for x = 0 because we
cannot divide by 0. Thus, a possible domain will be the set (, 0) (0, ).
There are also other reasons for considering the domain. For example, x may
have a physical meaning (e.g. weight of an apple). In that case, it does not

make sense to talk about negative values of x. Thus, it may be useful to

restrict the domain of a function of x to the set [0, ).
Remark 1: Outside of this topic, domains are often omitted and assumed
to be the biggest possible set for which the function is valid. For problem
sums, the domain may further be restricted such that values obtained makes
sense (e.g. the weight example from the previous paragraph).
Remark 2: For this topic, every function that is defined should come with
a description of the domain.
In our syllabus, a function is defined in the following fashion:
f : x 7 x + 1,

0 x < 2.

It can be read as follows: the function f is such that a number x is mapped

to the number x + 1. The domain is described by 0 x < 2.
Remark 3: x 1 is a description of the domain. The domain, however, is
a set. Hence, (noting the grammar), Df = [0, 2) or Df = {x : 0 x < 2}.

Range of a function
The range of a function f , often denoted by Rf , is the set of outputs, f (x).
In our above example, f (x) can take any number between 1 (inclusive) and 3
(exclusive) by following the rule of the function. (Note also the importance
of considering the domain.) Thus, Rf = [1, 3).
It is very useful to visualize the domain and range of a function on a graph.
We can think of the domain as part of the x-axis and the range as part of
the y-axis in the graph y = f (x). The following example shows how this can
be done.

Example 1 (Finding range of a function with a graph)

Find the range of the following function:
f : x 7 x2 + 1,

1 < x 2.


y = f (x)


1 0


Note that the graph of the function is drawn with a solid line because of the
domain. The dotted line represents the graph of y = x2 + 1 for all values of
x and is only for reference.
The domain, (1, 2] can be seen as the x-values the graph take. Meanwhile,
the range corresponds to the y-values the graph takes.
Thus, reading off the graph, Rf = [1, 5].
Remark 4: The end points, as well as the maximum and minimum points,
are of crucial importance when finding the range of a function. We can find
the coordinates for stationary points by differentiation or from our G.C. if
exact values are not required. For quadratic functions, completing the square
is another method to obtain the maximum/minimum point.

1) T. B. Ng, Calculus: An Introduction (Springer, 1997).
2) http://thelivingpearl.com.

Basic Practice
1. The function f is defined as follows:
f : x 7 x2 4x + 5,


(a) Find the value of f (6).
(b) Find the value(s) of x such that f (x) = 2.
(c) Find the value(s) of x such that f (x) = 10.
(d) State the range of f .
Find the exact range of the following functions
2. f : x 7


+ 1,

x R, x 6= 0

3. g : x 7 ex ,


4. h : x 7 ln x,


1. (a) 17.
(b) 1, 3.
(c) 5.
(d) [1, 26).
2. R \ {1} or (, 1) (1, ) or {y : y R, y 6= 1}.
3. (0, ).
4. (, ln 3].