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Intro to composing functions

Learn why we'd want to compose two functions together by looking at a farming example.

Cam is a farmer. Each year he plants seeds that turn into corn. The function below gives the amount of corn, C, in kilograms (kg), that he expects to produce if he plants corn on a acres of land.
C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis, equals, 7500, a, minus, 1500
For example, if Cam plants two, he expects to produce C, left parenthesis, 2, right parenthesis, equals, 7500, left parenthesis, 2, right parenthesis, minus, 1500, equals, 13, comma, 500 start text, k, g, end text of corn.
What Cam really wants to know is how much money he will make from selling this corn. So he uses the following function to predict the amount of money, M, in dollars, that he will earn from selling c kilograms of corn.
M, left parenthesis, c, right parenthesis, equals, 0, point, 9, c, minus, 50
So if Cam produces 13, comma, 500, start text, space, k, g, end text of corn, he can expect to make M, left parenthesis, 13, comma, 500, right parenthesis, equals, 0, point, 9, left parenthesis, 13, comma, 500, right parenthesis, minus, 50, equals, dollar sign, 12, comma, 100.
Notice that Cam has to use two separate functions to get from acres planted to expected earnings. The first function, C, takes acres to corn, while the second function, M, takes corn to money.
Wouldn't it be great if Cam could write a function that turned planted acres directly into expected earnings?

Creating a new function

We can indeed find the function that takes acres planted directly to expected earnings! To find this new function, let's think about the most general question: how much money does Cam expect to make if he plants corn seed on a acres of land?
Well, if Cam plants corn on a acres, he expects to produce C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis kilograms of corn. And if he produces C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis kilograms of corn, he expects to make M, left parenthesis, C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis, right parenthesis dollars.
So, to find a general rule that converts a acres directly into expected earnings, we can find the expression M, left parenthesis, C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis, right parenthesis.
But just how do we do this? Well, notice that in the expression M, left parenthesis, start color #1fab54, C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis, end color #1fab54, right parenthesis, the input of function M is start color #1fab54, C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis, end color #1fab54. So, to find this expression, we can substitute start color #1fab54, C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis, end color #1fab54 in for start color #e07d10, c, end color #e07d10 in function M.
M(c)=0.9c50M(C(a))=0.9(C(a))50=0.9(7500a1500)50          Since C(a)=7500a1500=6750a135050=6750a1400\begin{aligned} M(\goldD c)&=0.9\goldD c-50\\\\ M({\greenD{C(a)}})&=0.9(\greenD{C(a)})-50\\ \\ &= 0.9(\greenD{7500a-1500})-50~~~~~~~~~~\small{\gray{\text{Since }}}\small{\gray{C(a)=7500a-1500} }\\\\ &= 6750a-1350-50\\\\ &=6750a-1400 \end{aligned}
So the function M, left parenthesis, C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis, right parenthesis, equals, 6750, a, minus, 1400 converts acres planted directly into expected earnings. Let's use this new function to predict the amount of money that Cam would make from planting corn on two acres.
M, left parenthesis, C, left parenthesis, 2, right parenthesis, right parenthesis, equals, 6750, left parenthesis, 2, right parenthesis, minus, 1400, equals, dollar sign, 12, comma, 100
Cam can expect to make dollar sign, 12, comma, 100 from planting corn on two acres of land, which is consistent with our previous work!

Defining composite functions

We just found what is called a composite function. Instead of substituting acres planted into the corn function, and then substituting the amount of corn produced into the money function, we found a function that takes the acres planted directly to the expected earnings.
We did this by substituting C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis into function M, or by finding M, left parenthesis, C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis, right parenthesis. Let's call this new function M, circle, C, which is read as "M composed with C".
We now know that left parenthesis, M, circle, C, right parenthesis, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis, equals, M, left parenthesis, C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis, right parenthesis. This, in fact, is the formal definition of function composition!

Visualizing the two methods

Here's a visual to help interpret the above definition.
Using both functions C and M, function C—the corn function—takes two to 13,500. Then, function M—the money function—takes 13,500 to dollar sign12,100.
Using the composite function, we see that function M, circle, C takes two directly to dollar sign12,100.
The two are equivalent!

Now let's practice some problems.

Problem 1

Using the functions presented in the example, how much can Cam expect to earn if he sells all the corn produced on 1.5 acres?
For reference: C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis, equals, 7500, a, minus, 1500, M, left parenthesis, c, right parenthesis, equals, 0, point, 9, c, minus, 50 and M, left parenthesis, C, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis, right parenthesis, equals, 6750, a, minus, 1400
  • Your answer should be
  • an integer, like 6
  • a simplified proper fraction, like 3, slash, 5
  • a simplified improper fraction, like 7, slash, 4
  • a mixed number, like 1, space, 3, slash, 4
  • an exact decimal, like 0, point, 75
  • a multiple of pi, like 12, space, start text, p, i, end text or 2, slash, 3, space, start text, p, i, end text
dollars

Problem 2

Ben is a potato farmer. The function P, left parenthesis, a, right parenthesis, equals, 25, comma, 000, a, minus, 1000 gives the amount of potatoes, P, in kilograms, that he expects to produce from planting potatoes on a acres of land. The function M, left parenthesis, p, right parenthesis, equals, 0, point, 2, p, minus, 200 gives the amount of money, M, in dollars, that Ben expects to make if he produces p kilograms of potatoes.
How much money can Ben expect to make if he sells all of the potatoes produced on the 3 acres?
  • Your answer should be
  • an integer, like 6
  • a simplified proper fraction, like 3, slash, 5
  • a simplified improper fraction, like 7, slash, 4
  • a mixed number, like 1, space, 3, slash, 4
  • an exact decimal, like 0, point, 75
  • a multiple of pi, like 12, space, start text, p, i, end text or 2, slash, 3, space, start text, p, i, end text

Problem 3

Which of the following expressions gives the amount of money that Ben expects to make if he plants potatoes on a acres of land?
Choose 1 answer:
Choose 1 answer:

Want to join the conversation?

  • aqualine sapling style avatar for user ashley santana
    where did the 1500 come from?
    (25 votes)
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  • leaf blue style avatar for user Liah C.
    Could someone please explain where 6750a came from in Problem One? How was that number found?
    (16 votes)
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    • stelly blue style avatar for user Kim Seidel
      The problem gave you: M(C(a))=6750a−1400
      This was created by combining the 2 functions C(a) and M(c) by making C(a) as the input to M(c). Here's how that was done...
      We were also given:
      C(a)=7500a−1500
      M(c) = 0.9c - 50
      Insert C(a) as the input into M(c) and here's what M(C(a)) looks like before simplifying:
      M(C(a))=0.9(7500a−1500)−50
      After you simplify, you get M(C(a)) = 6750a−1400

      Hope this helps.
      (29 votes)
  • duskpin seedling style avatar for user Shalaya
    How would you find the value of the function if like you had f(g(-1)) how would you put that into in equation to solve?
    (4 votes)
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  • leaf red style avatar for user Jason Reed
    can i get some help with this its kinda getting confusing?
    (5 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Liam Heraty
    In defining composite functions paragraph 3 it says (M*C)(a) = M(C(a)). Isn't that just multiplying functions? If it says (M*C)(a) why can't I just multiply the two functions?
    (3 votes)
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  • aqualine tree style avatar for user Silverleaf.yen
    How do you find the domain of a composite function?
    (3 votes)
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    • leaf grey style avatar for user Alex
      The domain of a composite function f(g(x)) is all x in the domain of g such that g(x) is in the domain of f.

      Let's break this down. First off, the x has to be in the domain of g; if g(x) were say 1/x, then x = 0 could not be in the composite domain. Second of all, even if g(x) is defined, it has to be in the domain of f. Say f(x) equals 1 / (x - 1). Then if you choose an x such that g(x) = 1, making f(g(x)) = 1 / 0, that x cannot be in the domain of the composite function. Hope that I helped.
      (3 votes)
  • duskpin seedling style avatar for user Alex Cail
    Problem 1
    Shouldn't you solve for C(1.5), then input that value into M(C(a)) rather than just use M(1.5)??

    For example, here's my work:
    1.5 acres
    C(1.5) = 7500(1.5) - 1500
    11250-1500 = 9750
    M(9750) = 6750(9750) - 1400
    65812500-1400 = 65811100

    I realize that the solution I came up with is unrealistic, but my method of solving seems to me to follow the method taught. So, my question is: why don't you solve it the way I did?
    (3 votes)
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  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Ace Matei
    What do I do if I have to find f(x)h(x)?
    (2 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Helen
    I don't understand problem 3 can anyone explain?
    (2 votes)
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    • leaf red style avatar for user semo.199114
      Question, problem 3 is it just another method to get the answer to problem 2? Because I used a 2 step formula of solving the equation separately and then plugging in the answers; and I got both problem 1 and 2 correct. But got problem 3 incorrect.
      (2 votes)
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Jonathan
    Just to clarify one thing: if (f o g) (x) is equal to f(g(x)), then would (f o g o h) (x) be equal to f(g(h(x)))? Thanks!
    (1 vote)
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