# 2. Area Under a Curve

by M. Bourne

We met areas under curves earlier in the Integration section (see 3. Area Under A Curve), but here we develop the concept further. (You may also be interested in Archimedes and the area of a parabolic segment, where we learn that Archimedes understood the ideas behind calculus, 2000 years before Newton and Leibniz did!)

**It is important to sketch
the situation before you start.**

We wish to find the area under the curve `y = f(x)` from `x = a` to `x = b`.

We can have several situations:

**Case 1:** Curves which
are entirely **above the ***x***-axis.**

*x*

In this case, we find the area by simply finding the integral:

`"Area"=int_a^bf(x)dx`

Where did this formula come from?

## Area Under a Curve from First Principles

In the diagram above, a "typical rectangle" is shown with width `Δx` and height `y`. Its area is `yΔx`.

If we add all these typical rectangles, starting from `a` and finishing at `b`, the area is approximately:

`sum_{x=a}^\b(y)Deltax`

Now if we let `Δx → 0`, we can find the exact area by integration:

`"Area"=int_a^bf(x)dx`

This follows from the Riemann Sums, from the Introduction to Integration chapter.

### Example of Case 1

### Need Graph Paper?

Find the area underneath the curve `y = x^2+ 2` from `x = 1` to `x = 2`.

## Case 2: Curves which
are entirely **below the ***x***-axis **

*x*

We consider the case where the curve is below the `x`-axis for the
range of `x`* *values being considered.

In this case, the integral gives a **negative
number.** We need to take the **absolute value** of
this to find our area:

`"Area"=|int_a^bf(x)dx|`

### Example of Case 2

Find the area bounded by `y = x^2 − 4`, the `x`-axis and the lines `x = -1` and `x = 2`.

**Case 3**: Part of the
curve **is below** the *x*-axis, part of it is **above**
the *x*-axis

In this case, we have to sum the individual parts, taking the absolute value for the section where the curve is below the `x`-axis (from `x = a` to `x = c`).

`"Area"=|int_a^cf(x)dx|+int_c^bf(x)dx`

If we don't do it like this, the "negative" area (the part below the `x`-axis) will be subtracted from the "positive" part, and our total area will not be correct.

### Example of Case 3

What is the area bounded by the curve `y = x^3`, `x = -2` and `x = 1`?

### Summary (so far)

In each of Case 1, Case 2 and Case 3, we are summing elements left to right, like this:

We are (effectively) finding the area by **horizontally
**adding the areas of the rectangles, width `dx` and
heights `y` (which we find by substituting values of `x` into `f(x)`).

So

`A=int_a^bf(x)dx`

(with absolute value signs where necessary, if the curve goes under the `x`-axis).

## Case 4: Finding areas by summing vertically

In some cases, it is easier to find the area if we take **vertical** sums. Sometimes the only possible way is to sum vertically.

In this case, we find the area is the sum of the rectangles, heights `x = f(y)` and width `dy`.

If we are given `y = f(x)`, then we
need to re-express this as `x = f(y)` and we need to **sum
from bottom to top.**

So, in case 4 we have:

`A=int_c^df(y)dy`

### Example of Case 4

Find the area of the region bounded by the curve `y=sqrt(x-1)`, the `y`-axis and the lines `y = 1` and `y = 5`.

Didn't find what you are looking for on this page? Try **search**:

### Online Algebra Solver

This algebra solver can solve a wide range of math problems. (Please be patient while it loads.)

Go to: Online algebra solver

### Ready for a break?

Play a math game.

(Well, not really a math game, but each game was made using math...)

### The IntMath Newsletter

Sign up for the free **IntMath Newsletter**. Get math study tips, information, news and updates each fortnight. Join thousands of satisfied students, teachers and parents!

### Share IntMath!

### Calculus Lessons on DVD

Easy to understand calculus lessons on DVD. See samples before you commit.

More info: Calculus videos