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# www.numerical-methods.

com

Bisection Method
The bisection method is one of the simplest methods for solving or finding a value of 𝑥 ( a ‘root’)
that satisfies an equation of the form

𝑓(𝑥) = 0 .

The method is initiated by first stating that the root lies within some interval [𝑎, 𝑏]. It is
assumed that only one root lies within [𝑎, 𝑏], which can be expressed in shorthand as
𝑓(𝑎)𝑓(𝑏) < 0 . The root is originally bracketed in [𝑎, 𝑏] then 𝑓 is evaluated at the mid-point of
𝑎+𝑏 𝑎+𝑏 𝑎+𝑏
the interval . If 𝑓(𝑎)and 𝑓( ) have the same sign then 𝑎 is replaced by otherwise
2 2 2
𝑎+𝑏 𝑎+𝑏
𝑓(𝑏)and 𝑓( ) have the same sign then 𝑏 is replaced by . With each iteration the bracket is
2 2
halved in size until the interval is within a required tolerance and a solution is found. The
algorithm can be sketched as follows.

## repeat until abs(b-a)<epsilon

xmid=(a+b)/2
if f(a)*f(xmid)>0 then a=xmid else b=xmid

We will now consider an example to illustrate the method. Let us use the bisection method to
find the cubed root of 20 or solve solve the equation

𝑥 3 = 20

## or in the form of the question to solve

𝑓(𝑥) = 𝑥 3 − 20 = 0 .

The graph of 𝑓(𝑥) = 𝑥 3 − 20 is shown in the following figure. We also know that 23 = 8 and
33 = 27 so that we know that the solution lies between 2 and 3, so that our initial bracket for
the root is [2,3].

50

40

30

20

10

0
0 1 2 3 4 5
-10

-20

-30
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## We can use this information to ‘window-in’ on the root.

10

0
2 2.2 2.4 2.6 2.8 3

-5

-10

-15

2+3
The first step in the bisection method is to determine the midpoint of the interval = 2.5 and
2
evaluate the function there, as illustrated in the following figure.

Since 𝑓(2.5) < 0 then the lower bracket is 2.5 and the root is deemed to lie in [2.5, 3]. As before,
we select the midpoint 2.75 and evaluate the function there.
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This time, since it is on the other side of the root then the root then the root is now deemed to
be bracketed in [2.5, 2.75], as shown in the following graph.

0
2.5 2.55 2.6 2.65 2.7 2.75
-1

-2

-3

-4

-5

The method proceeds, evaluating the function at the mid-point 2.625, observing the sign of the
function so the root is now located in [2.625,2.75]. The method continues to halve the size of the
bracket until the root 2.7144.. is found to a predetermined tolerance.