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Lecture 1


In one-variable calculus you have studied functions of one real variable, in particular
the concepts of continuity, differentiation and integration. Functions of one variable
can capture the dependence of some quantity by only one other quantity. In practice
however, one often needs to investigate the dependence on one or more quantities
on many variables, such as time, location, temperature, air pressure, or costs of
different products etc. Therefore it in natural to consider functions that depend on
many variables. We will write f (x, y) for a function of two variables, f (x, y, z) for
a function of three variables or, more generally, f (x1 , x2 , . . . , xn ) for a function of
n variables. Instead of f other letters can be used (such as g, h, F, G, H or f1 , f2
etc.). Here it is assumed that a domain is specified to which the argument variables
belong. We will write R2 for the set of all pairs (x, y) of real numbers, R3 for all
triples of real numbers and Rn for all n-tuples of real numbers. The domains of
multivariable functions are subsets of those.
It is convenient to plot functions of one variable as a graph in the two-dimensional
plane (and, vice versa, one can study curves in the plane using functions). Similar
to this, a function of two variables can be plotted as a surface in three-dimensional
space, and two-dimensional curved surfaces can be studied by functions of two variables. Visualising functions of more than two variables is more difficult.
In this unit we will cover the concepts of continuity, differentiation and integration of functions of many variables, as well as applying these concepts to study the
geometry of curves and surfaces.


Rectangular Coordinate Systems

First we will recall some concepts from linear algebra that were introduced in
Math101. Recall that a point P0 in 2-space can be described by a pair of numbers, namely its Cartesian coordinates (x0 , y0 )1 . We use a coordinate system of two
perpendicular axes, the x-axis and y-axis. Now, x0 is the number on the x-axis
that corresponds to the perpendicular projection of P0 to the x-axis (parallel to the
y-axis) and y0 is the number on the y-axis that corresponds to the perpendicular
projection of P0 to the y-axis (parallel to the x-axis).

Here we use the lower indices 0 to indicate that these are the coordinates of the point P0 .

1.1 Rectangular Coordinate Systems



(x 0 , y0 )


In 3-space, the situation is similar. Here we need an extra axis, the z-axis.
Usually we make the z-axis vertical and pointing upward, while we make the x-axis
and y-axis to form a horizontal xy-plane as follows

(x 0 ,y0 ,z0 )


To find the coordinates a point P0 we need to project it perpendicularly to the

corresponding axis (parallel to the plane spanned by the remaining axes). This can
be done in two steps, we first find the point P0 that is the perpendicular projection
of P to the xy-plane. Then x0 , y0 are the coordinates of P0 in the xy-plane and
z0 is the distance between P0 and P0 with a positive sign if P is located above the
xy-plane and with a negative sign in the opposite case.
To find a point with given coordinates (x0 , y0, z0 ) first find P0 with coordinates
(x0 , y0 ) in the xy-plane and the go up by the distance of |z0 | = z0 if z0 0 or down
by |z0 | = z0 if z0 < 0 to find P0 . We will use the notation P0 (x0 , y0, z0 ) to indicate
that the point P0 has coordinates (x0 , y0 , z0 ).
Note: The coordinate system as drawn above is called a right-handed system
(when the fingers of the right hand are cupped so that they curve from the positive
x-axis toward the positive y-axis, the thumb points (roughly) in the direction of the
positive z-axis). If we interchange the positions of the x-axis and y-axis, then we
obtain a left-handed system. It can be shown that rectangular coordinate systems in
3-space fall into just these two categories: right-handed and left-handed. In this unit,
we will always use right-handed systems, and we will always draw the coordinates
with the z-axis vertical and pointing upward. We will call this the xyz-coordinate
Example 1 Find the point with coordinates (1, 2, 1) in the xyz-coordinate system.

1.2 Vectors

Solution: We first draw the coordinate axes to obtain the xyz-coordinate system.
Then find (1, 2) on the xy-plane, draw a vertical line through the point, and move
down one unit (since z0 = 1), and we arrive at (1, 2, 1).




Shifts in the plane or space can be described by saying to what point P2 a given
point P1 has been shifted. The line connecting P1 and P2 gives the direction of the
shift. Any other point Q1 would be shifted along a line parallel to by a distance
equal to the distance between P1 and P2 to a point Q2 , so that P1 , P2 , Q1 , Q2 form
a parallelogram. For this description it did not matter whether we started at P1 or
Q1 , so instead of the pairs P1 (x1 , y1 , z1 )P2 (x2 , y2 , z2 ) or Q1 (X1 , Y1 , Z1)Q2 (X2 , Y2 , Z2 )
we may consider the object
~v = hx2 x1 , y2 y1 , z2 z1 i = hX2 X1 , Y2 Y1 , Z2 Z1 i
called vector (in 3-space)2 . To indicate that a vector ~v is represented by an initial

point P1 and terminal point P2 we write ~v = P1 P2 .

When the initial and terminal point are the same, no shift occurs and the corresponding vector is the zero vector
~0 = h0, 0, 0i.

The same concept works in the 2-dimensional plane and any n-dimensional space. To keep
things simple, but not too simple, we restrict here to 3-dimensional space.

1.2 Vectors

Points and vectors are described by in a similar way by coordinates. In fact, a

point P (x, y, z) can be identified with a vector ~v = hx, y, zi that shifts the origin
O(0, 0, 0) to P (x, y, z). Nevertheless, points and vectors are different objects. We
cannot add points or multiply points with numbers, but we can add vectors:
~v1 + ~v2 = hx1 , y1 , z1 i + hx2 , y2 , z2 i = hx1 + x2 , y1 + y2 , z1 + z2 i.
The geometric meaning of adding two vectors is to perform two shifts, first by ~v1
and then by ~v2 . The result is a single shift by ~v1 + ~v2 . Notice that the sum of two
vectors does not depend on the order of the two shifts being performed.
We can also multiply a vector ~v = hx, y, zi by a number (in this context called
a scalar as opposed to a vector):
~v = hx, y, zi = hx, y, zi.
Geometrically, the shift ~v is in the same direction as ~v , if > 0 and in the opposite
direction, if < 0, by || times the original distance.
It follows easily from the arithmetic of numbers that the following properties are
(a) ~u + ~v = ~v + ~u
(b) (~u + ~v ) + w
~ = ~u + (~v + w)
(c) ~u + ~0 = ~0 + ~u = ~u
(d) ~u + (~u) = ~0
(e) k(~u) = (k)~u
(f) k(~u + ~v ) = k~u + k~u
(g) (k + )~u = k~u + ~u
(h) 1~u = ~u.
In our computations with vectors we will rely on these properties. One can define
a more abstract notion of vector spaces by stipulating theses properties as axioms.
This will be discussed in more detail in Linear Algebra Pmth213. You may verify
that the set of polynomials, or the set of polynomials of degree less or equal to 4
also constitute an abstract linear space.