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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

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].






0 1 2 3 4 5



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


2 2.2 2.4 2.6 2.8 3




The first step in the bisection method is to determine the midpoint of the interval = 2.5 and
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.

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.

2.5 2.55 2.6 2.65 2.7 2.75





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.

Spreadsheet Demonstration

The accompanying spreadsheet demonstrates the Bisection Method on the same example