This activity is intended to supplement Calculus, Chapter 4, Lesson 4.
Time Required: 15 minutes
In this activity, students will graphically and numerically explore Riemann sums and develop an understanding of summation notation for adding these rectangles.
Topic: Riemann sums
Graphically exploring Riemann sums
Teacher Preparation and Notes
Part 1 – Graphical Riemann Sums
Many questions can be asked and observations made. This section can be extended by asking about other functions. Students should graph other functions that have different concavity or slope to complete Exercise 3.
Students get a visual of what Riemann sums are. If only a few rectangles are graphed students may be able to better see and understand why the midpoint is an over approximation in some situations and an under approximation at other times.
- The midpoint approximation is between the left and right endpoint approximations. The left is too big and the right too small.
- The Riemann sums converge (to the definite integral) as n→∞. With thinner widths, the rectangles approach the true area.
- (a) over, (b) under, (c) over, (d) under. For example, when the function is decreasing and concave down, the function curves more steeply for the second half of the rectangle than the first. Therefore, since there is more rectangle above than below the graph, it over estimates the area.
Part 2 – Summation notation
In Part 2, students examine the summation notation. By reading and answering questions on the student worksheet, students will better understand the sigma notation.
- The right Riemann sums from a to b with 5 subintervals, looks like y(a+1)+y(a+2)+y(a+3)+y(a+4)+y(a+5). Note a+5=b since △x=1
Extension – Area Programs
Students will use the area program to compare area approximation methods.
- For y=x2, an increasing concave up function in this domain, the midpoint is approaching 7123 from the left and the trapezoid method is approaching the value of the definite integral from the right. Midpoint gives a better approximation.