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Arkansas Tech University

MATH 2934: Calculus III

Dr. Marcel B Finan

Functions of Two Variables

In many real world problems one encounters a quantity that depends on

more than one input. For example, if an amount of money A is invested at
a simple annual interest rate r for a period of t years then the balance at
the end of t years is given by the formula B = A(1 + r)t . Thus, B can be
regarded as a function of three variables A, r, and t. In function notation
we will write
B = f (A, r, t).
Multivariable calculus is the study of functions of more than one variable.
In this course we will mainly focus on functions having two or three variables.
However, functions of four, five, or more variables do occur in models of the
physical world and the results presented in the course also apply to such
The purpose of this section is to make you familiar with functions in two
variables. You will learn how to (1) represent a function of two variables
by a formula, (2) represnt a function in two variables by a table, and (3)
represent a function in two variables graphically.
First, we introduce the definition of a function of two variables: A scalarvalued function of two real variables x and y is a rule, f, that associates
with each choice of x and y a single real number f (x, y) called the value of
f at (x, y). The set Dom(f ) = {(x, y) : f (x, y) exists} is called the domain
of f. The range of f is the set of all possible values of f (x, y) for each (x, y)
in the domain of f.
Example 1.1
Consider the function f (x, y) = 1 x2 y 2 .
(a) Find f ( 12 , 21 ) and f (2, 1).
(b) Find the domain and the range of the function f.

(a) We have f ( 12 , 21 ) = 1 14 14 = 12 . But f (2, 1) = 1 4 1 = 4

which is an imaginary number. This means that (2, 1) is not in the domain
of f.
(b) The domain consists of all points (x, y) that satisfy the inequality x2 +

y 2 1. That is, the domain is the disk centered at the origin and with radius
1. The range is the closed interval 0 z 1
Example 1.2
Find the domain and range of the function f (x, y) =

1 .

The domain is {(x, y)|y < x} because of the square root in the denominator
and the range is {z|z > 0}
Example 1.3
Find the domain and range of the function f (x, y) = xy .
The domain is {(x, y)|xy 0 and y 6= 0} and the range is {z|z 0}
Representing a function by a formula
A car rental company charges $40 a day and 15 cents a mile for its cars. If
C is the total cost of renting a car then C is a function of two variables,
namely, the number of days, d, and the number of miles driven, m. As in the
case of a funtion of one variable, we will represent the cost function in function notation C(d, m) instead of just writing C. This way of representing
C helps in interpreting notations such as C(5, 300). The cost for renting a
car for 5 days and driving it for 300 miles is C(5, 300).
According to the verbal description of the cost function, a formula of C
would be
C(d, m) = 40d + 0.15m.
Thus , the cost of renting a car for three days and driving it for 104 miles is
C(3, 104) = 40(3) + (0.15)(104) = $135.60.
In the function notation C(d, m), d and m are called the independent
variables and C is called the dependent variable since it depends on
both d and m.
Numerical Representation
The temperature adjusted for wind-chill is a temperature which tells you how
cold it feels, as a result of the combination of wind and temperature.(See
table below.) Thus, the temperature adjusted for wind-chill is a function of
wind speed and temperature.

wind speed (mph)\ F










Thus, if the temperature is 0 F and the wind speed is 15 mph, then the
wind-chill is 31 F.
Example 1.4
Using the table above answer the following questions.
(a) If the temperature is 35 F, what wind speed makes it feel like 22 F ?
(b) If the wind is blowing at 15 mph, what temperature feels like 0 F ?
(a) According to the table, a wind speed of 10 mph.
(b) Let W C denote the windchill and T denote the actual temperature.
When the windspeed is 15 mph we notice that equal increment in T results to an equal increment in W C. That is, W C is a linear function of
T, say W C(T ) = mT + b. It is easy to see that the slope m = 1.4.
Hence, W C(T ) = 1.4T + b. Since W C(35) = 16 we find b = 33. Thus,
W C(T ) = 57 T 33. The question is to find T such that W C(T ) = 0. Solving
the equation 75 T 33 = 0 we find T = 23.6 F
Graphical Representation
Graphs of functions in two variables will be discussed in details in the next
section. For the time being, we introduce the three dimensional space and
learn how to locate points in this system as well as finding the distance between any two points.
The Three Dimensional Coordinate System
A three dimensional coordinate system consists of three rectangular axes
that intersect at one point called the origin. The location of a point P
in three dimensional space may be specified by an ordered set of numbers
(x, y, z). The coordinate system is illustrated in Figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1
Remark 1.1
A useful way to visualize a three dimensional system is in terms of a room.
The origin is a corner at floor level where two walls meet the floor. The
zaxis is the vertical intersection of the two walls; the x and yaxes are
the intersections of each wall with the floor. Points with negative coordinates
lie behind the wall in the next room or below the floor. The walls and floor
are known as the coordinate planes. Thus, we have three coordinate
planes, namely, the xy, xz, and yz coordinate planes. See Figure 1.2.
The coordinate planes divide the three dimensional space into eight regions
called octants. Notice that an octant is similar to a quadrant for the two
dimensional rectangular system. Usually, the octant with all three positive
coordinates is referred to as the first octant. Thus, Figure 1.1 (or Figure
1.2) shows the first octant.

Figure 1.2
There is no generally used naming convention for the other seven octants.
One can adopt the following convention: first octant (+, +, +); top-backright (, +, +); top-back-left (, , +); top-front-left (+, , +); bottomfront-left (+, , ); bottom-back-left (, , ); bottom-back-right (, +, );
bottom-front-right (+, +, ).

Note that if a point has one of its coordinates equals to 0, it lies in one
of the coordinate planes. Thus, a point in the xyplane has coordinates
(x, y, 0). If a point has two of its coordinates equal to 0, it lies on one of the
coordinate axes. For example, the point (0, y, 0) is a point on the y-axis.
Example 1.5
(a) You are two units below the xyplane and in the yzplane. What are
your coordinates?
(b) You are standing at the point (4, 5, 2), looking at the point (0.5, 0, 3).
Are you looking up or down?
(a) You are located at the point (0, y, 2) where y is an arbitrary number.
(b) Ploting the two points you will find out that you are looking up
Example 1.6
Plot the points P (0, 3, 5), Q(5, 5, 7), and R(0, 10, 0).
The three points are shown in Figure 2.3

Figure 2.3
Example 1.7
What does the graph of the equation z = 4 look like?

All points with z-coordinate equals to 4 lie on a plane above and parallel to
the xyplane, as shown in Figure 1.4

Figure 1.4
Distance Between Two points
Consider the two points P (a, b, c) and G(x, y, z). We want to find the distance between these two points. See Figure 1.5. Applying the Pythagorean
formula twice we find
|P G|2 =|P F |2 + |F G|2 = |P E|2 + |EF |2 + |F G|2
=(x a)2 + (y b)2 + (z c)2
d(P, G) =

(x a)2 + (y b)2 + (z c)2 .

Figure 1.5
Example 1.8
Find the equation of the surface of a sphere centered at (4, 3, 2) and with
radius 5.

The distance between any point (x, y, z) on the sphere and the center (4, 3, 2)
is given by
(x 4)2 + (y + 3)2 + (z 2)2 = 25.
It is important to understand that this equation represents only the surface
of the sphere. The solid ball enclosed by the sphere is given by
(x 4)2 + (y + 3)2 + (z 2)2 25