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iGCSE (2021 Edition)

4.01 Function notation


A function is a special type of relation, where each input only has one output. When dealing with functions, function notation is used to highlight the independent and dependent variables, for ease of notation with substitution, and to express functions in a standardised way that is easier to read and understand.

When writing in function notation, instead of writing "$y=$y=", write "$f(x)=$f(x)=". This can be interpreted as "$f$f is a function of the variable $x$x" and read as "$f$f of $x$x". Common letters to use for general functions are lower case $f$f, $g$g and $h$h. However, any letter can be used and often, variables are chosen that have meaning in context such as $t$t for time or $d$d for distance.


Instead of $y=2x+1$y=2x+1 we could write $f(x)=2x+1$f(x)=2x+1. Here $f$f is a function of the variable $x$x which follows the rule double $x$x and add $1$1.

Some examples of other functions written in function notation are:

$P(t)=200\times0.8^t$P(t)=200×0.8t, where population is a function of time.

$H(d)=30-2d-30d^2$H(d)=302d30d2, where height is a function of distance.

In these examples, the letter in the bracket on the left is the input, and the right-hand side gives the rule for the output.

Function notation also allows for shorthand for substitution. If $y=3x+2$y=3x+2 and this is written in function notation as $f(x)=3x+2$f(x)=3x+2, then the question 'what is the value of $y$y when $x$x is $5$5?' can be asked simply as 'what is $f(5)$f(5)?' or 'Evaluate $f(5)$f(5).'


Worked example

If $A(x)=x^2+1$A(x)=x2+1 and $Q(x)=x^2+9x$Q(x)=x2+9x, find:

A) $A(5)$A(5)

Think: This means we need to substitute $5$5 in for $x$x in the $A(x)$A(x) equation.


$A(5)$A(5)  $=$= $5^2+1$52+1
  $=$= $26$26


B) $Q(6)$Q(6)

Think: This means we need to substitute $6$6 in for $x$x in the $Q(x)$Q(x) equation.


$Q(6)$Q(6) $=$= $6^2+9\times6$62+9×6
  $=$= $36+54$36+54
  $=$= $90$90


Practice questions

Question 1

Consider the function $f\left(x\right)=8x+6$f(x)=8x+6.

  1. Determine the output produced by the input value $x=5$x=5.

Question 2

If $Z(y)=y^2+12y+32$Z(y)=y2+12y+32, find $y$y when $Z(y)=-3$Z(y)=3.

  1. Write both solutions on the same line separated by a comma.




Understand the terms: function, domain, range (image set), one-one function, inverse function and composition of functions.


Use function notation. e.g. f(x) = sin x, f: x ↦ sin x, f(x) = lg x or f: x ↦ lg x.


Solve simple simultaneous equations in two unknowns by elimination or substitution.

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