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Published on 22 Apr 2015 | over 2 years ago

MIT grad shows what a limit is, how to read the notation, what it means on a graph and how to find the limit on a graph. More videos with Nancy coming in 2017! To skip ahead: 1) For how to understand limit NOTATION and the CONCEPT of the limit, skip to time 0:34. 2) For WHICH WAY TO LOOK AT THE GRAPH to find the limit, including when to use the X and when to use the Y, skip to time 1:52. 3) For ONE-SIDED LIMITS notation, including the LEFT-SIDED LIMIT and RIGHT-SIDED LIMIT, skip to time 7:54. 4) For how to understand limits where X APPROACHES INFINITY or negative infinity, skip to time 10:24.

For HOW TO FIND THE LIMIT (at a finite value), jump to youtu.be/hewJikMkYFc .
For HOW TO FIND THE LIMIT AT INFINITY, jump to youtu.be/kae8X6aplf0 .

1) LIMIT NOTATION and WHAT A LIMIT MEANS: You can read the limit notation as "the limit, as x approaches 1, of f(x)". This means "when x gets very close to 1, what number is y getting very close to?" The limit is always equal to a y-value. It is a way of predicting what y-value we would expect to have, if we tend toward a specific x-value. Why do we need the limit? One reason is that there are sometimes "blindspots" such as gaps (holes) in a function in which we cannot see what the function is doing exactly at a point, but we can see what it is doing as we head toward that point.

2) HOW TO LOOK AT THE GRAPH to find the limit: a) For a removable discontinuity (hole), b) For a removable discontinuity with a point defined above, and c) For a normal line. When you're finding an overall limit, the hidden, implied meaning is that YOU MUST CHECK BOTH SIDES OF THE X-VALUE, from the left and from the right. If both sides give you the same limit value, then that value is your overall limit. In our example, to find the limit from the left side, TRACE X VALUES from the left of 1 but headed toward 1 (the actual motion is to the right), and check to SEE WHAT Y-VALUE the function is tending toward. That y-value is the left-hand limit. To find the limit from the right side, trace x values from the right of 1 but headed toward 1 (the actual motion is to the left), and again check to see what Y-VALUE the function is heading toward. That y-value is the right-hand limit. Since the left limit (2) and the right limit (2) are the same in our example, the overall limit answer is 2. If they were not the same, we could not give a limit value (see #3). IMPORTANT TAKEAWAY: For the limit, we DO NOT CARE what is happening EXACTLY AT THE X-VALUE and ONLY CARE what y-values the function is hitting NEAR the x-value, as we get closer and closer to that x. In other words, the limit, as x approaches 1, of f(x) can equal 2, even if (1) = 3 or some other number different from 2, or even if f(1) is not defined or indeterminate.

3) ONE-SIDED LIMITS (RIGHT-SIDED LIMIT and LEFT-SIDED LIMIT) for a jump discontinuity: as you saw in #2, to find the overall limit, you have to check both the left and right limits. Sometimes the left limit and right limit are not the same. If you get a limit question with notation in which the x is approaching a number but with a plus sign or minus sign as a superscript, that is notation for a one-sided limit. The minus sign means the limit from the left, and the plus sign means the limit from the right. IF THE LEFT limit AND RIGHT limit are NOT THE SAME, then the overall limit DOES NOT EXIST (sometimes written as "DNE"). Even if the left and right limits are different, you can still write the left-sided limit and right-sided limit values separately.

4) LIMITS in which X APPROACHES INFINITY (or negative infinity): Another "blindspot" is when x goes toward infinity or negative infinity. Since we can never "see" exactly at infinity (or negative infinity), we can use the idea of the limit to say what y-value it looks like the function is headed toward when our x value approaches infinity. If x is approaching INFINITY, TRACE x values TOWARD THE RIGHT (the large positive direction) on the graph, and see what y-value the function is approaching. That y-value is the limit. If x is approaching NEGATIVE INFINITY, trace x values TOWARD THE LEFT (the large negative direction), and check what y-value the function is getting closer and closer to on the graph. That y-value is the limit.

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