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1.

3 FUNCTIONS AS MATHEMATICAL
MODELS
In applications of calculus, we need to express a real-
world situation in terms of a functional relationship,
called a mathematical model of the situation. This
section is designed to give you practice in obtaining
functions as mathematical models and at the same
time we will preview some of the applications you
will encounter later.
Although no one specific method is always used to
obtain a mathematical model, here are some steps
that give a possible procedure for you to follow. As
you read through the examples, refer to these steps
to see how they are applied.
Suggestions for Solving Problems Involving a
Function as a Mathematical Model
1. Read the problem carefully so that you understand
it. To gain understanding, it is often helpful to make
up a specific example that involves a similar situation
in which all the quantities are known. Another aid is
to draw a picture if feasible, as shown in Examples 4
and 5.
2. Determine the known and unknown quantities.
Use a symbol say x, for the independent variable, and
a symbol, say f, for the function you will obtain; the
f(x) symbolizes the function value. Because x and f(x)
are symbols for numbers their definitions should
indicate this fact. For example, if the independent
variable represents length and length is measured in
feet, then if x is the symbol for the variable, x should
be defined as the number of feet in the length or,
equivalently, x feet is the length.
3. Write down any numerical facts known about the
variable and the function value.
4. From the information in step 3, determine two
algebraic expressions for the same number, one in
terms of the variable and one in terms of the
function value. From these two expressions form an
equation that defines the function. You now have a
function as a mathematical model of the problem.
5. To complete the problem once you have applied
the mathematical model to solve for the unknown
quantities, write a conclusion, consisting of one or
more sentences, that answers the questions of the
problem. Be sure you conclusion contains the correct
units of measurement.
EXAMPLE 1 The volume of a gas having a constant
pressure in directly proportional to the absolute
temperature, and at a temperature of 175 the gas
occupies 100 m3. (a) Find a mathematical model
expressing volume as a function of temperature. (b)
What is the volume of the gas at a temperature of
140?
SOLUTION
(a) Let f(x) cubic meters be the volume of a gas
whose temperature is x degrees. Then by the
definition of directly proportional
f(x) = kx
where k is a constant. Because the volume of the gas
is 100m3 at a temperature of 175, we replace x by
175 and f(x) by 100 in (1) and obtain
100 = k(175)
k= 4
7
Substituting this value of k in (1), we have
f(x) = (140)
4
7

= 80
Conclusion: At a temperature of 140 the volume of
the gas is 80m3.
EXAMPLE 2 A wholesaler sells a product by the
pound (or fraction of a pound); if not more than 10
pounds are ordered, the wholesaler charges $2 per
pound. However, to invite large orders the wholesaler
charges only $1.80 per pound if more than 10 pounds
are ordered. (a) Find a mathematical model
expressing the total cost of the order as a function of
the amount of the product ordered. (b) Sketch the
graph of the function in part (a). (c) Determine the
total cost of an order of 9.5 lb and of an order of 10.5
lb.
SOLUTION
(a) Let C(x) dollars be the total cost of an order of x
pounds of the product. Then
C(x) = {2x if 0 x 10
{1.8x if 10 < x
(b) The graph of function C appears in Figure 1.
(c) C(x) is obtained from the equation C(x) = 2x when
0 x 10 and from the equation C(x) = 1.8x when 10
< x. Therefore,
C(9.5) = 2(9.5) C(10.5) = (1.8)(10.5)
= 19 = 18.90

Conclusion: The total cost 9.5 lb is $19 and the total


cost of 10.5 lb is $18.90
Observe from part (b) Of Example 2 that the graph of
C has a break at the point where x = 10, which
indicates that function C is discontinuous at x = 10.
We will elaborate on this property in Section 1.8. For
now, notice that because of the discontinuity of C, it
would be advantageous to increase the size of some
orders to take advantage of a lower total cost. In
particular, it would be unwise to purchase 9.5 lb for
$19 when 10.5 lb can be bought for $18.90.
In the next example, we have a composite function as
a mathematical model.
EXAMPLE 3 In a forest a predator feeds on prey, and
for the first fifteen weeks since the end of the
hunting season the predator population is a function
f of x, the number of prey in the forest, which in turn
is a function g of t, the number of weeks that have
elapsed since the end of the hunting season. If
f(x) = and g(t) = 4t + 52
1 2
x 2 x+ 50
48

where 0 t 15, do the following: (a) Find a


mathematical model expressing the predator
population as a function of the number of weeks
since the end of the hunting season. (b) Find the
predator population 11 weeks after the close of the
hunting season.
SOLUTION
(a) The predator population t weeks after the close of
the hunting season is given by (f g)(t), where 0 t
15.
f(f g)(t) = f(g(t))
= f(4t + 52)
= 1 2
(4 t +52) 2 ( 4 t +52 )+ 50
48

(b) When t = 11, we have


(f g)(11) = 1
( 96 )22 ( 96 ) +50
48

= 50
Conclusion: Eleven weeks after the close of the
hunting season the predator for population is 50.
In Section 2.8 we will return to the situation in
Example 3 and determine the rate at which the
predator population is growing 11 weeks after the
close of the hunting season.
EXAMPLE 4 A cardboard box manufacturer wishes to
make open boxes from rectangular pieces of
cardboard with dimensions 10 in by 17 in. by cutting
equal squares from the four corners and turning up
the sides. (a) Find a mathematical model expressing
the volume of the box as a function of the length of
the side of the square cut out. (b) What is the
domain of the function obtained in part (a)? (c) On a
graphics calculator, find accurate to two decimal
places the length of the side of the square cut out so
that the box has the largest possible volume. What is
the maximum volume?
SOLUTION
(a) Let x inches be the length of the side of the
square cut out and V(x) cubic inches be the volume of
the box. Figure 2 represents a given piece cardboard
and Figure 3 represents the box obtained from the
cardboard. The number of inches in the dimensions
of the box are 10 2x, and 17 2x. Therefore,
V(x) = x(10 2x)(17 2x)
= 170x 54x2 + 4x3

(b) From the expression for V(x) in part (a), we


observe that V(0) = 0 and V(5) = 0. From conditions of
the problem we know that x can be neither negative
nor greater than 5. Thus the domain of V is the
closed interval [0, 5].
(c) The graph of function V plotted in the [0, 5] by [0,
200] window appeared in Figure 4. We observe that
V has a maximum value on its domain. The x
coordinate of the highest point on the graph gives
the length of the side of the square to be cut out for
maximum volume and the y coordinate gives the
maximum volume. On our graphics calculator, we
determine the highest point is (2.03, 156.03).

Conclusion: The length of the side of the square cut


out should be 2.03 in to give the box a maximum
volume of 156.03 in3.
In Section 3.2, we will apply calculus to confirm
analytically the answer in Example 4(c).
EXAMPLE 5 A closed tin can of volume 60 in 3. is to be
in the form of a right-circular cylinder. (a) Find a
mathematical model expressing the total surface area
of the can as a function of the base radius. (b) What
is the domain of the function in part (a)? (c) On a
graphics calculator, find accurate to two decimal
places the base radius of the can if the least amount
of tin to be used in its manufacture.
SOLUTION
(a) See Figure 5 showing the cylindrical can where r
inches is the base radius and h inches is the height.
The least amount of tin will be required when the
total surface area is a minimum. The lateral surface
area is 2rh inches, and the area of both the top and
bottom is r2 square inches. If S square inches is the
total surface area.
S = 2rh + r2

Because r2h cubic inches is the volume of a right-


circular cylinder and the volume of the can is to be 60
in3., we have
r2h = 60
Solving this equation for h and substituting into (2),
we obtain S as a function of r.
S(r) =
60
2 r
( )
r
2
+2 r 2

S(r) = 120
+2 r 2
r
(b) To obtain the domain of S, we observe from the
equation defining S(r) that r cannot be 0.
Theoretically, however, r may be any positive number.
Therefore, the domain of S is (0, +).
(c) Figure 6 shows the graph of function S plotted in
the [0, 10] by [0, 200] window. The r coordinate of
the lowest point on the graph gives the radius for the
minimum total surface area. On our graphics
calculator we determine that the lowest point is
(2.12, 84.84).

Conclusion: The least amount of tin will be used in


the manufacture of the can when the base radius is
2.12 in.
We will confirm analytically the answer of Example 5
(c) as an application of calculus in Section 3.9.
EXAMPLE 6 In a community of 8000 people, the rate
at which a rumor spreads is jointly proportional to
the number of people who have heard the rumor and
the number of people who have not heard it. When
20 people have heard the rumor, it is being spread at
the rate of 200 people per hour. (a) Find a
mathematical model expressing the rate at which the
rumor is spreading as a function of the number of
people who have heard it. (b) How fast is the rumor
spreading when 500 people have heard it? (c) On a
graphics calculator, estimate how many people have
heard the rumor when the rumor is being spread at
the greatest rate.
SOLUTION
(a) Let f(x) people per hour be the rate at which the
rumor is spreading when x people have heard it.
Then by the definition of directly proportional
f(x) = kx(8000 x)
where k is a constant. Because the rumor is being
spread at the rate of 200 people per hour when 20
people have heard it, we replace x by 20 and f(x) by
200 in (3) and we have
200 = k(20)(8000 20)
k= 1
798

Replacing k in (3) by this value, we obtain


f(x) = x (8000x)
798

(b) From the preceding expression for f(x), we have


f(500) = 500 (8000500)
798

= 4699.25
Conclusion: The rumor is being spread at the rate of
4699 people per hour when 500 people have heard
it.
(c) Figure 7 shows the graph of f plotted in the [0,
8000] by [0, 25,000] window. We determine that the
highest point on the graph occurs when x = 4000.
Conclusion: The rumor is being spread at the greatest
rate when 4000 people, half of the population, have
heard the rumor.
We will return to the situation in Example 6 in
Sections 3.2 and 7.4 to illustrate two different
applications of calculus. In Section 3.2, we will
confirm analytically the answer in part (c). Then in
Section 7.4, we will obtain a model expressing the
number of people who have heard the rumor as a
function of the length of time the rumor has been
spreading, so that we can determine how many
people have heard the rumor at any particular time.
You will also prove in Section 7.4 that the entire
population will eventually hear the rumor.