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Multivariable Calculus - Fundamentals

November 1, 2009

1 Functions on Subsets of Rn
If we do things right the topic of limits, continuity and differentiability can be done
in a general context and all the different formulations for: - real valued functions of
one variable, real valued functions of several variables, and multi-valued functions of
several variables - become simply examples of the general case. Further the ideas can
be extended to more general esoteric spaces. First some set theory.
When we refer to Rn we speak of a generalization of every-day 3-space. Analytically,
Rn consists of the set of all n-tuples of real numbers . Such an n-tuple is written as x =
(x1 , x2 , x3 · · · , xn ). We denote the fact that x is in the set Rn by writing x ∈ Rn .
A notion of distance between arbitrary points can be defined on the set Rn by sim-
ply extending our usual definition. That is, given x ∈ Rn and y ∈ Rn , where x =
(x1 , x2 , x3 · · · , xn ) and y = (y1 , y2 , y3 · · · , yn ), define the distance between x and y
as 3 41
d(x, y) = (x1 − y1 )2 + (x2 − y2 )2 + · · · (xn − y n )2

Given this notion of distance, it is not hard to prove that the various properties that we
associate with distance between points in R2 or R3 carry over to the general setting of
Rn . These can be summarized as follows: Given arbitrary x, y, and z in Rn
1. d(x, y) = d(y, x)
2. d(x, z) ≤ d(x, y) + d(y, z)
3. d(x, y) = 0 if and only if x = y

Using this notion of distance it is now possible to easily generalize the concept of an
open interval in R, and open disk in R2 - simply the points interior to some circle - and
and open ball in R3 - all the points interior to some sphere. Accordingly we define the
open n- ball B(x, r)of radius r and and center x ∈ Rn by

B(x, r) = {y ∈ Rn : d(x, y) < r}

Notationally it is useful when talking about limits to have a notation for a ball B(x, r)
with the center point x removed. We denote this set as B 0 (x, r).

1.1 Limits and Continuity

In order to talk of limits and continuity in this general setting, we first need to expand
the analysis of functions to the situation where the function in consideration has domain
some subset D of Rn and has range another high-dimensional space Rm - that is, we
wish to focus on functions f : D → Rm . First some notation. Just as f (x) denotes the
point of Rm associated with the given point x ∈ D, if A is a subset of D, written A ⊂ D,
where we allow the possibility that A = D, the collection of all points f (x) ∈ Rm as x
ranges through all points in A is written as f (A). In other words,

f (A) = {f (x) ∈ Rm : x ∈ A}

We are now in position to speak of what it means for a function f : D → Rm to be

continuous and what it means for f to have a limit, limx→a f (x), as a point x approaches
a fixed point a. Reversing the usual order in which limits are spoken of first and then
later continuity, we give the definition of continuity first
Definition 1 Let D ⊂ Rn be a subset of Rn and let f : D → Rm be a function. 1 the2
function f is said to be continuous at a point a ∈ D provided for every ball B f (a), ‘
of radius ‘ centered at f (a) there is a ball B(a1, δ), where
2 δ depends on choice of ‘, such
that if x ∈ B(a, δ) and x ∈ D then f (x) ∈ B f (a), ‘ .
Observe that this definition can be rewritten by1 translating
2 what it means for x to be in
B(a, δ) , and what it means for f (a) to be in B f (a), ‘ . Letting the symbol ∀ stand for
the words for every and the symbol ∃ stand for the words there exists, the expression is:

∀‘ ∃δ, such that if Î x − a Î< δ and x ∈ D, then Î f(x) − f(a) Î< ‘

Should the function not be continuous at a if may still happen that the functional values
f (x) get closer and closer to some fixed point L as x gets closer and closer to a. In
this case we say, in the usual way, limx→a f (x) = L. This is made in precise by simply
allowing the possibility that x is never equal to a in the above definition. This in turn
is done by substituting B 0 (a, δ) for B(a, δ) and L for f (a). In particular there is the
following formal definition.

∀‘ ∃δ, such that if 0 <Î x − a Î< δ and x ∈ D, then Î f(x) − L Î< ‘

Figure 1: ∀‘ ∃δ, such that if Î x − a Î< δ and x ∈ D then Î f(x) − f(a) Î< ‘
1 2
In considering the problem of calculating a limit, say limx→(0,0) f x) = L, one is tempted

to search for the limit value by looking at various paths that x might take as it approaches
the origin (0, 0) and then conclude that should the limit values be the same for a few of
these paths, then that common value is in fact the limit. For instance one could look at
1 2
• along the x- axis - lim(x,0)→(0,0) f (x, 0) ,
1 2
• along the y-axis - lim(0,y)→(0,0) f (0, y) ,
1 2
• along a diagonal - lim(x,x)→(0,0) f (x, x))
and then try and conclude that should they all have the same value, the limit then has
this common value.
Exercise 2 Check out the following example

x2 y
lim .
(x,y)→(0,0) x4 + 2y 2

What happens if you compute each of the 3 limits above? What happens if you consider
x = (x, y) approaching (0, 0) along the path of the parabola y = x2 .

1.2 Open and Closed Sets

Recall from one-variable calculus that when taking the derivative of a function, we as-
sumed nearly always that we were to take derivatives of a function f at a point c that
belonged to an open interfal. This of course was so that the definition of the limit defining
the derivative

f (x) − f (c)
x→c x−c

would make sense. If the function were defined on a closed interval [a, b] it is possible
to consider a right-derivative at c = a if one were to consider right limits

f (x) − f (c)
lim ,
x→c+ x−c

but this is kind of messy. And, when considering functions of more than one variable, it
becomes very messy. Consequently, it is easier to consider functions of several variables

as defined on an open set where and open set is may be considered an extension of the
notion of an open interval. The definition is as follows. As a typographical note, please
observe that from now on I will drop the convention of representing points in high di-
mensional spaces with bold face type - where a point lives - whether in R or Rn , n > 1
will be determined by context or mentioned explicitly.
Definition 3 A subset D of Rm is said to be an open set if for every x ∈ D, there is an
ball B(x, δ) that is a subset of D - in other words B(x, δ) ⊂ D.
Given an arbitrary subset D ⊂ Rm , the interior of D is considered to be the collection
of all points x such that there is a ball centered at x that is contained in D. A point
x ∈ Rm is said to be a boundary point of D provided that for every ball B(x, δ) centered
at x no matter how small, there are points both in D contained the ball and points not
in D contained in the ball. The interior of D is denoted as int(D) and the collection of
all boundary points of D is denoted bd(D)
In light of all this, we extend the definition of continuity at a point to the notion of
continuity on a subset. In particular we say that a function f : D → Rn defined on an
open subset of Rm is continuous on D provided f is continuous at each point of D
Focusing once more on notation regarding functions, given a function f : D → Rm we
have said that if A ⊂ Rm then f (A) is the collection of all points f (x) such that x ∈ A.
We have thus extended the notion of function to the notion of a function defined on
subsets . We can also extend it in another way. Given a subset B ⊂ Rn in the range of
f we define f −1 (B) to be all the elements of all elements x ∈ D such that f (x) ∈ B .
Thus given an arbitrary function f : D → Rn we have now defined a new function that
is defined on all subsets B of Rn . Please note that in the notation f −1 (B) we do not
assume that f possesses an inverse.
Definition 4 A subset F of Rm is said to be a closed set if each boundary point of F
belongs to F. In other words, F is closed provided
x ∈ bd(F ) ⇒ x ∈ F
Exercise 5 Prove that every ball B(x, r) ⊂ Rm is an open set.
Proof. According to the definition of an open set to show B(x, r) is an open set we
must show that for every y ∈ B(x, r) there must be a ball B(y, δ) such that B(y, δ) ⊂
B(x, r) - that is we must show that every point z ∈ B(y, δ) is also in B(x, r). Choose
δ < r − ||y − x||. If z ∈ B(y, δ), Then we know that ||z − y|| < δ < r − ||y − x|. By the
triangle inequality we then have
||z − x|| < ||y − x|| + ||z − y|| < ||y − x|| + r − ||y − x|| = r

Thus ||z − x|| < r so that z ∈ B(x, r).

Figure 2: Proving B(x, r) is an open set

Exercise 6 Given an arbitrary subset A ⊂ Rn , define the compliment of A in Rm to be

the set Rm − A of all elements x ∈ Rn that are not in A. Prove that a set F is closed if
and only if Rn − F is open.
Proof. We use the definition that F is closed if and only if Bd(F ) ⊂ F. And, x ∈ Bd(F )
if and only if for every δ > 0 the ball of radius δ and center x intersects F in a non-
empty set and intersects Rm − F in a non-empty set. That is ∀δ > 0 ∃y ∈ F such that
B(x, δ) ∩ F is non-empty and B(x, δ) ∩ Rn − F is also non-empty.
There are two parts to this problem. First, assuming F is closed prove Rn − F is open.
Second, assuming Rn − F is open prove F is closed.
1. F a closed set ⇒ Rn − F is open
To show Rn − F open choose an arbitrary point x ∈ Rn − F and show that there exists a
ball B(x, δ) such that B(x, δ) ⊂ Rn −F . However, since x ∈
/ F in particular x ∈
/ Bd(F ).
This means that there is some δ such that either B(x, δ)∩F is empty or B(x, δ)∩Rn −F
is empty. However the later situation can not happen since x ∈ Rn − F . Thus there
exists δ > 0 such that B(x, δ) ⊂ Rn − F. Thus Rn − F is an open set.
2. Rn \ F an open set ⇒ F is closed
Let x ∈ Bd(F ). Then for every δ > 0 there is y ∈ F ∩ B(x, δ). Thus there is no δ > 0
with the property that B(x, δ) ⊂ Rn − F . Thus x ∈ / Rn − F since Rn − F is assumed to
be an open set. Thus x ∈ F . So F contains all its boundary points. Hence F is a closed

Exercise 7 If D were an open set, how could the definition of continuity of a function
f : D → Rn at a point a ∈ D be simplified.
Solution For every ‘ > 0 there exists δ > 0 such that f (B(x, δ)) ⊂ B(f (x)‘).
Exercise 8 Given a function f : D → Rn where D ⊂ Rm is open prove that f is
continuous on D provided for every open set V ⊂ Rn , f −1 (V ) is an open subset of Rm .

Proof. Suppose f is continuous on D and let V be and open subset of Rn . To show that
f −1 (V ) is open choose x ∈ f −1 (V ). We need to find δ > 0 such that B(x, δ) ⊂ f −1 (V ).
Look now at f (x). Since x ∈ f −1 (V ), it follows that f (x) ∈ V. Since V is open there
exists ‘ > 0 such that B(f (x), ‘) ⊂ V. By the continuity of f there now is δ > 0 such that
B(x, δ) ⊂ D and f (B(x, δ)) ⊂ B(f (x), ‘) ⊂ V . And from general principles regarding
functions it follows that

1 2 1 2
B(x, δ) ⊂ f −1 f B(x, δ) ⊂ f −1 B(f (x), ‘) ⊂ f −1 (V ).

Exercise 8 a Now try to prove the converse of the above. That is: if it is true that for
every open set V ⊂ Rn , it follows that f −1 (V ) is open in Rm , then f is continuous at
each point x ∈ D.
Some General Principles of Functions Let X and Y be two sets. Let f : X → Y be
a function. This means that to each x ∈ X there is an associated unique (one and only
one) element y = f (x) in Y .
• The function f is said to be injective provided for every x1 ∈ X and x2 ∈ X, if
x1 ”= x2 then f (x1 ) ”= f (x2 ). In other words, f associates distinct elements of Y
with distinct elements ofX .
• The function f is said to be surjective if for every y ∈ Y there exists x ∈ X such
that f (x) = y.
1 2
• If B ⊂ Y, then f f −1 (B) ⊂ B
1 2
• If A ⊂ X , then A ⊂ f −1 f (A)
Exercise 9 Prove that the projection function prx : R3 → R defined by prx : (x, y, z) ‘→
x onto the first coordinate is a continuous function on R3
Proof. For arbitrary an arbitrary point a = (x, y, z), it is necessary to show that for
every ‘ > 0 that there is a δ > 0 such that f (B(a, δ)) ⊂ B(x, ‘) = (x − ‘, x + ‘). Lets
try choosing δ = ‘. We would need to prove that for arbitrary b = (xÕ , y Õ , z Õ ) ∈ B(b, δ)
with f (b) = xÕ that we would then have |xÕ − x|, ‘. But this follows since
|x − xÕ | < (xÕ − x)2 + (y Õ − y)2 + (z Õ − z)2 < δ = ‘.

Exercise 10 Prove that the projection function prxy : R3 → R2 defined by prxy : (x, y, z) ‘→
(x, y, 0) onto the xy-plane is a continuous function on R3
Exercise 11 Let f : D → Rm be a function continuous on an open set D. Let A ⊂ D
be an open subset of D. Let f|A : A → D be the restriction of f to A defined by
f|A (x) = f (x). Prove that f|A is continuous on A.
Let x ∈ A. According to exercise 17 it suffices to show that for every ‘ > 0 there exists
a δ > 0 such that f|A (B(x, δ) ⊂ B f|A (x), ‘). Since f is continuous at x we know there
exists such a δ since f (x) = f|A (x) for every x ∈ A

Exercise 12 Using Definition 1 can the words open be removed from the previous ex-
ercise resulting in a true statement?

1.3 Functions
Let f : D → R be a function defined on an open subset D of Rm . The limit theorems and
statements regarding continuity of f are phrased identically as in one-variable calculus,
and the proofs carry over with virtually no change. Thus there are the following results
Theorem 13 Let f : D → Rm and g : D → Rm be vector-valued continuous functions
defined on an open subset D of Rm and let c ∈ R be a constant Then:
• the function f + g : D → Rm defined by f + g : x ‘→ f (x) + g(x) is continuous
on D.
• the function cf : D → Rm defined by cf : x ‘→ cf (x) is continuous on D.
Theorem 14 Let f : D → R and g : D → R be real-valued continuous functions
defined on an opens subset D of Rm ,
• the function f · g : D → R defined by f · g : x ‘→ f (x)g(x) is continuous on D.
• the funtion f /g : D → R defined by f /g : x ‘→ f (x)/g(x) is continuous at each
point x ∈ D for which g(x) ”= 0
Now consider the case of compositions. That is suppose f : D → Rn is a function
defined on a subset D of Rm , and let B ⊂ Rn be a subset of Rn with the property that
f (D) ⊂ B. Next consider a function g : B → Rp be a function from the set B ⊂ Rn to

the third p-dimensional space Rp . We can then consider the composition g ◦ f : D → Rp
defined by g ◦ f : x ‘→ g(f (x)), and there is the following theorem.
Theorem 15 In the context of the preceding paragraph, if f is continuous at x ∈ D and
g is continuous at f (x), then g ◦ f is continuous at x.
Exercise 16 Prove the preceding theorem.
Proof. Let3x ∈ D and 4 choose arbitrary ‘ > 0. We must show that there exists δ > 0
1 2 1 2
such that g f B(x, δ) ⊂ B g(f (x), ‘

Since g is continuous at y = f (x) there is ρ > 0 such that

1 2 1 2
g B(f (x), ρ ⊂ B g(f (x), ‘ .

Since f is continuous at x, there is δ > 0 such that f (B(x, δ)) ⊂ B(f (x), ρ). Applying g
to each side of this line and combining with the previous gives:
3 4 3 4 1 2
g f (B(x, δ)) ⊂ g B(f (x), ρ) ⊂ B g(f (x), ‘

When speaking of a function f : Rm → Rn is convenient to represent f in terms of what
occurs in each of the coordinates of Rn . Accordingly we consider coordinate functions and
write 1 2
f = f1 , f2 , f3 , · · · fn ,
1 2
and f (x) = f1 (x), f2 (x), f3 (x), · · · , fn (x) .