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Joshua Ahearn

Mr. Acre

AP Calculus

27 March 2017

Riemann Sums

Definite integrals are one of the four main concepts within calculus. A Riemann sum is an

excellent way to introduce the topic of a definite integral and an excellent way to approximate

the area underneath the curve. The Riemann sum can also be applied to other different topics in

There are multiple ways to use calculus to find the area under a curve. One of the

simplest ways to approximate the area under the curve is using a Riemann sum. A Riemann sum

involves creating rectangles on an interval under the curve, and finding the area of these

rectangles. The area under the curve is then found by adding the area of all these rectangles. An

Ahearn 2

Figure 1 shows an example of Riemann sums. For the equation above, rectangles were

inserted at a specific interval, and the area of these rectangles were summed to obtain the overall

b

x 0

Ln= lim U n = lim Rn

x 0 x 0

a

The equation above shows how a Riemann sums estimates the area under a curve. To

mathematically find the value of Riemann sum, the equation Area x (h1 +h2 +h 3+ hn) can be

used. x represents the change in the x interval, which can be found by subtracting the limit

of integration b from the limit of integration a and dividing them by the number of intervals

desired. The h values can be finding f(a) and adding whatever the x comes out to equal to a

for the number of intervals. This formula will approximate the area under a curve.

A similar way to find area is by utilizing the trapezoid rule. This rule is essentially the

same as a Riemann sum, but instead of using rectangles, trapezoids are used in their place. An

Ahearn 3

Figure 2 displays an example of the trapezoid rule. For the equation above, trapezoids are

inserted at a specific interval, and the area of these trapezoids were summed to obtain the overall

area under the curve. The formal definition of the trapezoid rule is

x

f (x)dx

2

b

x represents the change in the x interval, which can be found by subtracting the limit

of integration b from the limit of integration a and dividing them by the number of intervals

desired, just as for a Riemann sum. The x values can be finding f(x) and adding whatever the

x comes out to equal to a for the number of intervals. x is divided by two, because the

original trapezoid area formula is multiplied by one-half. The reason that the first and last terms

are multiplied by one and the middle terms are multiplied by two is due to the area formula for a

trapezoid. Since the middle intervals will share bases of the trapezoid, they need to be multiplied

by two to ensure they are being accounted for. Using this formula will find the area under the

curve.

Simpsons rule is another method of finding the area under a curve. Simpsons rule is also

similar to a Riemann sum or the trapezoid rule, but instead it uses parabola arcs to estimate the

Ahearn 4

Figure 3 displays an example of Simpsons rule. For the equation above, parabolic arcs

are inserted at a specific interval, and the area of these arcs were summed to obtain the overall

x

f (x) dx

3

b

x represents the change in the x interval, which can be found by subtracting the limit

of integration b from the limit of integration a and dividing them by the number of intervals

desired, just as for a Riemann sum. The x values can be finding f(x) and adding whatever the

x comes out to equal to a for the number of intervals. x is divided by three, due to

mathematical manipulations that are used when integrating a second degree polynomial to obtain

the equation above. This also explains the coefficients in front of each of the variables being

added and then multiplied. Using this formula will find the area under the curve.

Ahearn 5

Using these methods are all accurate ways in approximating the area under the curve.

However, using Simpsons rule is the most effective way in approximating the exact area under

the curve. Due to the fact that parabolas are used to estimate the area, it does a better job at

getting the exact values than straight lines would able to. Between Riemann sums and the

trapezoid rule, the trapezoid rule is able to be more exact than a Riemann sum, because it is also

to somewhat slope the leg along the curve, rather than just drawing a straight line through a point

on the curve.

Figure 4 shows a graph of f (x)=( x3)4 +2(x3)34 (x3)+ 5 . Riemann sums can

be inserted into this graph to estimate the area underneath this curve. If two intervals are desired,

to determine x , 1 will be subtracted from 5 and then divided by 2. This makes x=2 ,

making the first interval span from one to three, and the second interval from three to five. This

can be used to find five different Riemann sums using points on the left or right, midpoints, the

highest value within the interval, and lowest value within the interval. Below is an example of a

Ahearn 6

Figure 5 shows the left Riemann sum for f (x)=( x3)4 +2(x3)34 (x3)+ 5 . The

x

x

x

f ( 2)

value of this sum can be found by , where x=2 , f ( 1)=13 , and

f ( 1)+

Area x

x x x

f ( 2)=5 . The values for f ( 1) and f ( 2) were found by plugging one into the

equation, since that is the leftmost point in the first interval, and plugging three into the equation,

since that is the leftmost point in the second interval. This gives the overall equation of

Area 2(13+5)=36 squareunits . This can also be found by finding the area of the first

rectangle and adding it to the second rectangle. The area of the first rectangles equals f (1)(2)

and the area of the second rectangle equals f (3)( 2) . Adding these results in

Ahearn 7

Area=[f (1)(2)]+[ f (3)(2)]=36 square units . The right Riemann sum can now be found, and

is displayed below.

Figure 6 shows the right Riemann sum for f ( x)=( x3)4 +2(x3)34 (x3)+ 5 . The

x

x

x

f ( 2)

value of this sum can be found by , where x=2 , f ( 1)=5 , and

f ( 1)+

Area x

x x x

f ( 2)=29 . The values for f ( 1) and f ( 2) were found by plugging three into the

equation, since that is the rightmost point in the first interval, and plugging five into the equation,

since that is the rightmost point in the second interval. This gives the overall equation of

Area 2(5+29)=68 squareunits . This can also be found by finding the area of the first

rectangle and adding it to the second rectangle. The area of the first rectangles equals f (3)(2)

Ahearn 8

and the area of the second rectangle equals f (5)( 2) . Adding these results in

Area=[f (3)(2)]+[f (5)(2)]=68 squareunits .The midpoint Riemann sum can now be found,

Figure 7 shows the midpoint Riemann sum for f (x)=( x3)4 +2(x3)34 ( x3)+ 5 .

x

x

x

f ( 2)

The value of this sum can be found by , where x=2 , f ( 1)=8 , and

f ( 1)+

Area x

x x x

f ( 2)=4 . The values for f ( 1) and f ( 2) were found by plugging two into the

equation, since that is the midpoint in the first interval, and plugging four into the equation, since

that is the midpoint in the second interval. This gives the overall equation of

Area 2(8+ 4)=24 square units . This can also be found by finding the area of the first

Ahearn 9

rectangle and adding it to the second rectangle. The area of the first rectangles equals f (2)(2)

and the area of the second rectangle equals f (4)(2) . Adding these results in

Area=[f (2)(2)]+[f (4 )(2)]=24 squareunits . The upper Riemann sum can now be found, and

is displayed below.

Figure 8 shows the upper Riemann sum for f ( x)=(x3)4 +2(x3)34 ( x3)+ 5 .

x

x

x

f ( 2)

The value of this sum can be found by , where x=2 , f ( 1)=13 , and

f ( 1)+

Area x

x x x

f ( 2)=29 . The values for f ( 1) and f ( 2) were found by plugging one into the

equation, since that is the highest value in the first interval, and plugging five into the equation,

since that is the highest value in the second interval. This gives the overall equation of

Ahearn 10

Area 2(13+29)=84 square units . This can also be found by finding the area of the first

rectangle and adding it to the second rectangle. The area of the first rectangles equals f (1)(2)

and the area of the second rectangle equals f (5)( 2) . Adding these results in

Area=[f (1)(2)]+[ f (5)(2)]=84 square units . The lower Riemann sum can now be found, and

is displayed below.

Figure 9 shows the lower Riemann sum for f ( x)=(x3)4 +2(x3)34 ( x3)+ 5 .

x

x

x

f ( 2)

The value of this sum can be found by , where x=2 , f ( 1)=5 , and

f ( 1)+

Area x

x x x

f ( 2) 3.12 . The values for f ( 1) and f ( 2) were found by plugging three into the

equation, since that is the lowest value in the first interval, and plugging 3.68 into the equation,

Ahearn 11

since that is the lowest value in the second interval. This gives the overall equation of

Area 2(5+3.12) 16.25 square units . This can also be found by finding the area of the first

rectangle and adding it to the second rectangle. The area of the first rectangles equals f (3)(2)

and the area of the second rectangle equals f (3.68)( 2) . Adding these results in

Now that each instance of a Riemann sum has been illustrated and calculated, the

trapezoid rule can be calculated. If four intervals are desired in the trapezoid rule, then

51

x= =1 . The trapezoid rule is illustrated below.

4

Figure 10 shows the trapezoid rule for f (x)=( x3)4 +2( x3)34 (x3)+ 5 . The

x

value of this sum can be found by Area ( f (x 1)+2 f ( x 2 )+ 2 f (x 3)+ f ( x 4 )+ f (x 5 )) , where

2

x x x x

x=2 , f ( 1)=13 , f ( 2)=8 , f ( 3)=5 , f ( 4)=4 , and f ( x5 )=29 .

Ahearn 12

The values for f (x) were found by one through five into the equation, since these values form

1

Area= [13+ 2(8)+ 2(5)+ 2(4)+29]=38 square units .

2

Simpsons rule can also be used on the equation. If four intervals are desired in

51

Simpsons rule, then x= =1 . Simpsons rule is shown below.

4

Figure 11 shows Simpsons rule for f ( x)=(x3)4 +2( x3)34 ( x3)+ 5 . The value

of this sum can be found by x , where x=2 ,

Area

3

x x x x

f ( 1)=13 , f ( 2)=8 , f ( 3)=5 , f ( 4)=4 , and f ( x5 )=29 . The values for

f ( x) were found by one through five into the equation, since these are the points that the

Ahearn 13

1

Area= [13+4 (8)+2(5)+4 (4 )+ 29]=33.33 squareunits .

3

Depending on the method of approximation used, the value received could be very

different. The right and upper Riemann sum gave very large number, the lower Riemann sum

gave a very low number, and the rest of the approximations all gave a value somewhere near 30.

However, as stated earlier, Simpsons rule will be the most accurate in predicting the area under

the curve, or the most accurate at estimating the definite integral of the function. When the

definite integral from one to five is calculated on f(x) ( f (x)dx ), it gives a value of 32.8.

1

This shows that Simpsons rule was accurate to one decimal place. The trapezoid rule, left

Riemann sum, and midpoint Riemann sum all estimated the area under the curve fairly

accurately as well.

The Mean Value Theorem for Integrals, also known as the Average Value, finds another

way to represent the definite integral. It finds the value where if a rectangle was drawn using that

value as line along with the x-axis between the limits of integration, the area of that rectangle

would equal the area underneath the curve. The formula for the average value is f (x )dx .

a

Ahearn 14

Figure 12 shows the average value for the function displayed. The rectangle that was

drawn in has the same area as the under the curve. This can be applied to the example function

above using two rectangles. This makes the limit of integration for the first rectangle from one to

three, and the limit of integration for the second rectangle from three to five. This makes the first

3 5

1 3

Figure 13 shows the average value for the function used above. Since both heights came

out to equal 8.2, one rectangle was drawn. The height of this rectangle is 8.2 as calculated by the

Ahearn 15

MVT for integrals, and the width is 4 due to the limits of integration used. The area of this

rectangle is (8.2)(4)=32.8 , which is what the definite integral from one to five of f(x) is also

equal to. This proves that Mean Value Theorem for Integrals is true.

Since all the major topics surrounding Riemann sums are demonstrated above, they can

be applied to a problem. If the volume of a spherical hot air balloon expands as the air inside is

heated, the radius of the balloon, measured in feet, is modeled by a twice-differentiable function

r of time t, measured in seconds. For 0<t <12 , the graph is concave down. The table (shown

below) gives selected values of the rate of change, r(t), of the radius of the balloon over the time

interval given above. The radius of the balloon is 32 feet when t=7 .

t (seconds) 0 1 4 7 11 12

Table 1 shows the values of the rate of change of the radius of the hot air balloon. The

radius of the balloon at t=7.2 s can be estimated by using the tangent line approximation at

t=7 s . The tangent line can be written since it is stated what the values of r(t) and r(t) are

given. The line tangent to t=7 s is r32=1.4(t7) . Plugging in 7.2 for t will give an

approximation for the radius at that time. By doing so, the equation becomes:

r32=1.4(7.27)

r=1.4 (7.27)+32

r=32.28 ft

The approximate radius of the balloon at t=7.2 s is 32.28 ft. Since r is concave down

on between 7 and 7.2, the estimate is greater than the actual value at t=7 s . The rate of

change of volume of the balloon with respect to time when t=7 s can be found as well by

utilizing the formula for the volume of a sphere. By taking the derivative of the volume formula,

Ahearn 16

4

V = r 3 , the radius can be plugged in and the change in volume can be found. The

3

derivative of the volume function is dV =4 r 2 r ' . Since it is stated that the radius at

t=7 s is equal to 32 feet, this value can be plugged into dV to find the rate of change in

volume at t=7 s . The value for r is also given in Table 1. Plugging in these values results in:

dV =4 (32)2 1.4

cubic feet

dV =5734.4

second

After plugging in the respective values, the change in volume of the balloon comes out to

cubic feet

equal 5734.4 . A right Riemann sum can now be used to approximate the area

second

underneath the curve from zero to twelve. However, since the table does not give equal intervals,

the typical Riemann sum formula cannot be used. However, the area can be found by multiplying

the right values (each r(t) value in the table except for the first) by the change in t and

12

0

12

0

Taking the right Riemann sum of r(t) results in an approximation of the area under curve

that equals 16.6 ft. This value represents the change in radius, measured in feet, over the interval

12

from t=0 s to t=12 s . This approximation is less than the actual value of r ' (t )dt ,

0

due to the fact that graph of r(t) is concave down, since the values of r(t) are decreasing.

Ahearn 17

Riemann sums are a very useful tool in calculus, and can be applied to many different

topics. It is an excellent way to approximate the area underneath a curve quickly when a

calculator may not be available to take the definite integral. It is also related to the Mean Value

Theorem for Integrals, by creating a rectangle that has the same area underneath a curve.

Riemann sums are a great introduction to definite integrals and hold extreme value in the world

of calculus.

Ahearn 18

Works Cited

Simmons, Bruce. "Mathwords: Trapezoid Rule." Trapezoid Rule. Mathwords, 2016. Web. 25

Simmons, Bruce. "Mathwords: Mean Value Theorem for Integrals." Mean Value Theorem for

<http://www.mathwords.com/m/mean_value_theorem_integrals.htm>.

<http://math.tutorvista.com/calculus/simpson-s-rule.html>.

Weisstein, Eric W. "Riemann Sum." Riemann Sum. Wolfram Mathworld, n.d. Web. 25 Mar.

2017. <http://mathworld.wolfram.com/RiemannSum.html>.

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