Simply put, **Bolzano’s theorem** (sometimes called the *intermediate zero theorem*) states that continuous functions have zeros if their extreme values are opposite signs (- + or + -). For example, every odd-degree polynomial has a zero.

Bolzano’s theorem is sometimes called the Intermediate Value Theorem (IVT), but as it is a **particular case** of the IVT it should more correctly *Bolzano’s *Intermediate Value theorem.

## Bolzano’s Theorem: Formal Definition

More formally, Bolzano’s theorem can be stated as follows:

If a function f on the closed interval [

a,b] ⊂ ℝ → ℝ is a continuous function and it holds that f(a) f(b) < 0, then there is at least one x ∈ (a,b) such thatf(x) = 0

If you’re unfamiliar with the notation:

- ⊂ = proper subset,
- ∈ = “is in” (i.e. “is an element of some set”).
- ℝ = The set of real numbers

Given a function, you can use the theorem to prove that the function has at least one root. The theorem states nothing about what the value for the function’s zero will be: it merely states that the zero exists.

## Example

**Example question:** Does the equation x^{3} + x – 1 = 0 have at least on real solution in the closed interval [0, 1]?

Here, you’ve been given a function (x^{3} + x – 1) set to zero. So if the function has at least one solution, then that solution is a root (i.e. a zero). In order to apply Bolzano’s theorem, you need to find out two things:

- Is the function is a continuous function?
- Do the interval endpoints have opposite signs?

Step 1: Verify that the function is a continuous function. x^{3} + x – 1 is a polynomial function, so it meets this requirement.

**Note**: you may want to read this article about checking continuity if you’re unsure about when functions are continuous (or when they are not).

Step 2: Locate the endpoints and see if they have opposite signs. Here, you’re given the function and the endpoints [0, 1], so plug the endpoints into the function and see what values come out:

- 0
^{3}+ 0 – 1 = -1 - 1
^{3}+ 1 – 1 = 1

The two values have** opposite signs**, and the function is **continuous**. Therefore, Bolzano’s theorem tells us that the equation does indeed have a real solution. A quick look at the graph of x^{3} + x – 1 can verify our finding:

## References

Apostol, T. M. Calculus, 2nd ed., Vol. 1: One-Variable Calculus, with an Introduction to Linear Algebra. Waltham, MA: Blaisdell, p. 143, 1967.

Rusnock, P. Bolzano’s philosophy and the emergence of modern mathematics. Rodopi. 2000.

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