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Original Title: Finding Domain and Range

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Learning Objective(s)

Find the domain of a square root function.

Find the domain and range of a function from the algebraic form.

Introduction

Functions are a correspondence between two sets, called the domain and the range. When

defining a function, you usually state what kind of numbers the domain (x) and range (f(x))

values can be. But even if you say they are real numbers, that doesnt mean that all real

numbers can be used for x. It also doesnt mean that all real numbers can be function values,

f(x). There may be restrictions on the domain and range. The restrictions partly depend on the

type of function.

In this topic, all functions will be restricted to real number values. That is, only real numbers can

be used in the domain, and only real numbers can be in the range.

Restricting the domain

There are two main reasons why domains are restricted.

You cant divide by 0.

You cant take the square (or other even) root of a negative number, as the

result will not be a real number.

In what kind of functions would these two issues occur?

Division by 0 could happen whenever the function has a variable in the denominator of a

rational expression. That is, its something to look for in rational functions. Look at these

examples, and note that division by 0 doesnt necessarily mean that x is 0!

Function Notes

If x = 0, you would be dividing by 0, so x 0.

If x = 3, you would be dividing by 0, so x 3.

Although you can simplify this function to

f(x) = 2, when x = 1 the original function would

include division by 0. So x 1.

Both x = 1 and x = 1 would make the

denominator 0. Again, this function can be

simplified to , but when x = 1 or x =

1 the original function would include division by

0, so x 1 and x 1.

This is an example with no domain restrictions,

even though there is a variable in the

denominator. Since x

2

0, x

2

+ 1 can never be

0. The least it can be is 1, so there is no danger

of division by 0.

Square roots of negative numbers could happen whenever the function has a variable under a

radical with an even root. Look at these examples, and note that square root of a negative

variable doesnt necessarily mean that the value under the radical sign is negative! For

example, if x = 4, then x = (4) = 4, a positive number.

Function Restrictions to the Domain

If x < 0, you would be taking the square root of a

negative number, so x 0.

If x < 10, you would be taking the square root

of a negative number, so x 10.

When is -x negative? Only when x is positive.

(For example, if x = 3, then x = 3. If x = 1,

then x = 1.) This means x 0.

x

2

1 must be positive, x

2

1 > 0.

So x

2

> 1. This happens only when x is greater

than 1 or less than 1: x 1 or x 1.

There are no domain restrictions, even though

there is a variable under the radical. Since

x

2

0, x

2

+ 10 can never be negative. The least

it can be is 10, so there is no danger of taking

the square root of a negative number.

Domains can be restricted if:

the function is a rational function and the denominator is 0 for some value or values

of x.

the function is a radical function with an even index (such as a square root), and the

radicand can be negative for some value or values of x.

Range

Remember, here the range is restricted to all real numbers. The range is also determined by the

function and the domain. Consider these graphs, and think about what values of y are possible,

and what values (if any) are not. In each case, the functions are real-valuedthat is, x and f(x)

can only be real numbers.

Quadratic function, f(x) = x

2

2x 3

Remember the basic quadratic function: f(x) = x

2

must always be positive, so f(x) 0 in that

case. In general, quadratic functions always have a point with a maximum or greatest value (if it

opens down) or a minimum or least value (it if opens up, like the one above). That means the

range of a quadratic function will always be restricted to being above the minimum value or

below the maximum value. For the function above, the range is f(x) 4.

Other polynomial functions with even degrees will have similar range restrictions. Polynomial

functions with odd degrees, like f(x) = x

3

, will not have restrictions.

Radical function, f(x) =

Square root functions look like half of a parabola, turned on its side. The fact that the square

root portion must always be positive restricts the range of the basic function, , to only

positive values. Changes to that function, such as the negative in front of the radical or the

subtraction of 2, can change the range. The range of the function above is f(x) 2.

Rational function, f(x) =

Rational functions may seem tricky. There is nothing in the function that obviously restricts the

range. However, rational functions have asymptoteslines that the graph will get close to, but

never cross or even touch. As you can see in the graph above, the domain restriction provides

one asymptote, x = 6. The other is the line y = 1, which provides a restriction to the range. In

this case, there are no values of x for which f(x) = 1. So, the range for this function is all real

numbers except 1.

Determining Domain and Range

Finding domain and range of different functions is often a matter of asking yourself, what values

can this function not have?

Example

Problem What are the domain and range of the real-valued

function f(x) = x + 3?

This is a linear function. Remember that linear functions are lines that

continue forever in each direction.

Any real number can be substituted for x and get a meaningful output.

For any real number, you can always find an x value that gives you that

number for the output. Unless a linear function is a constant, such as

f(x) = 2, there is no restriction on the range.

Answer The domain and range are all real numbers.

Example

Problem What are the domain and range of the real-valued

function f(x) = 3x

2

+ 6x + 1?

This is a quadratic function. There are no rational or radical expressions,

so there is nothing that will restrict the domain. Any real number can be

used for x to get a meaningful output.

Because the coefficient of x

2

is negative, it will open downward. With

quadratic functions, remember that there is either a maximum (greatest)

value, or a minimum (least) value. In this case, there is a maximum

value.

The vertex, or turning point, is at (1, 4). From the graph, you can see

that f(x) 4.

Answer The domain is all real numbers, and the range is all real

numbers f(x) such that f(x) 4.

You can check that the vertex is indeed at (1, 4). Since a quadratic function has two mirror

image halves, the line of reflection has to be in the middle of two points with the same y value.

The vertex must lie on the line of reflection, because its the only point that does not have a

mirror image!

In the previous example, notice that when x = 2 and when x = 0, the function value is 1. (You

can verify this by evaluating f(2) and f(0).) That is, both (2, 1) and (0, 1) are on the graph. The

line of reflection here is x = 1, so the vertex must be at the point (1, f(1)). Evaluating f(1) gives

f(1) = 4, so the vertex is at (1, 4).

Example

Problem What are the domain and range of the real-valued

function ?

This is a radical function. The domain of a radical function is any x value

for which the radicand (the value under the radical sign) is not negative.

That means x + 5 0, so x 5.

Since the square root must always be positive or 0, . That

means .

Answer The domain is all real numbers x where x 5, and the

range is all real numbers f(x) such that f(x) 2.

Example

Problem What are the domain and range of the real-valued

function ?

This is a rational function. The domain of a rational function is restricted

where the denominator is 0. In this case, x + 2 is the denominator, and

this is 0 only when x = 2.

For the range, create a graph using a graphing utility and look for

asymptotes:

One asymptote, a vertical asymptote, is at x =2, as you should expect

from the domain restriction. The other, a horizontal asymptote, appears

to be around y = 3. (In fact, it is indeed y = 3.)

Answer The domain is all real numbers except 2, and the range is

all real numbers except 3.

You can check the horizontal asymptote, y = 3. Is it possible for to be equal to 3? Write

an equation and try to solve it.

Since the attempt to solve ends with a false statement0 cannot be equal to 6!the equation

has no solution. There is no value of x for which , so this proves that the range is

restricted.

Find the domain and range of the real-valued function f(x) = x

2

+ 7.

A) The domain is all real numbers and the range is all real numbers f(x) such that

f(x) 7.

B) The domain is all real numbers x such that x 0 and the range is all real numbers f(x)

such that f(x) 7.

C) The domain is all real numbers x such that x 0 and the range is all real numbers.

D) The domain and range are all real numbers.

Show/Hide Answer

A) The domain is all real numbers and the range is all real numbers f(x) such that

f(x) 7.

Correct. Quadratic functions have no domain restrictions. Since x

2

0, x

2

+ 7 7.

B) The domain is all real numbers x such that x 0 and the range is all real numbers f(x)

such that f(x) 7.

Incorrect. Negative values can be used for x. The correct answer is: The domain is all

real numbers and the range is all real numbers f(x) such that f(x) 7.

C) The domain is all real numbers x such that x 0 and the range is all real numbers.

Incorrect. Negative values can be used for x, but the range is restricted because x

2

0.

The correct answer is: The domain is all real numbers and the range is all real numbers

f(x) such that f(x) 7.

D) The domain and range are all real numbers.

Incorrect. While its true that quadratic functions have no domain restrictions, the range

is restricted because x

2

0. The correct answer is: The domain is all real numbers and

the range is all real numbers f(x) such that f(x) 7.

Summary

Although a function may be given as real valued, it may be that the function has restrictions to

its domain and range. There may be some real numbers that cant be part of the domain or part

of the range. This is particularly true with rational and radical functions, which can have

restrictions to domain, range, or both. Other functions, such as quadratic functions and

polynomial functions of even degree, also can have restrictions to their range.

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