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In this section, you will:
  • Find the domain of a function defined by an equation.
  • Graph piecewise-defined functions.

If you’re in the mood for a scary movie, you may want to check out one of the five most popular horror movies of all time— I am Legend , Hannibal , The Ring , The Grudge , and The Conjuring . [link] shows the amount, in dollars, each of those movies grossed when they were released as well as the ticket sales for horror movies in general by year. Notice that we can use the data to create a function of the amount each movie earned or the total ticket sales for all horror movies by year. In creating various functions using the data, we can identify different independent and dependent variables, and we can analyze the data and the functions to determine the domain    and range. In this section, we will investigate methods for determining the domain and range of functions such as these.

Two graphs where the first graph is of the Top-Five Grossing Horror Movies for years 2000-2003 and Market Share of Horror Movies by Year
Based on data compiled by www.the-numbers.com. The Numbers: Where Data and the Movie Business Meet. “Box Office History for Horror Movies.” http://www.the-numbers.com/market/genre/Horror. Accessed 3/24/2014

Finding the domain of a function defined by an equation

In Functions and Function Notation , we were introduced to the concepts of domain and range . In this section, we will practice determining domains and ranges for specific functions. Keep in mind that, in determining domains and ranges, we need to consider what is physically possible or meaningful in real-world examples, such as tickets sales and year in the horror movie example above. We also need to consider what is mathematically permitted. For example, we cannot include any input value that leads us to take an even root of a negative number if the domain and range consist of real numbers. Or in a function expressed as a formula, we cannot include any input value in the domain that would lead us to divide by 0.

We can visualize the domain as a “holding area” that contains “raw materials” for a “function machine” and the range as another “holding area” for the machine’s products. See [link] .

Diagram of how a function relates two relations.

We can write the domain and range in interval notation    , which uses values within brackets to describe a set of numbers. In interval notation, we use a square bracket [ when the set includes the endpoint and a parenthesis ( to indicate that the endpoint is either not included or the interval is unbounded. For example, if a person has $100 to spend, he or she would need to express the interval that is more than 0 and less than or equal to 100 and write ( 0 ,   100 ] . We will discuss interval notation in greater detail later.

Let’s turn our attention to finding the domain of a function whose equation is provided. Oftentimes, finding the domain of such functions involves remembering three different forms. First, if the function has no denominator or an even root, consider whether the domain could be all real numbers. Second, if there is a denominator in the function’s equation, exclude values in the domain that force the denominator to be zero. Third, if there is an even root, consider excluding values that would make the radicand negative.

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Practice Key Terms 3

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Source:  OpenStax, College algebra. OpenStax CNX. Feb 06, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11759/1.3
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