Suppose $f : [0, 1] \rightarrow [0, 1]$ is increasing (but not necessarily continuous). Show that there is a number $x \in [0, 1]$ with $f(x) = x$. (Hint: You can’t apply the IVT directly because the function need not be continuous. Draw a picture and try to copy the proof of the Intermediate Value Theorem.)

I don't understand how copying the IVT and connecting it to my graph would help me prove this since the IVT has nothing to do with increasing functions(or am I wrong about this?)

  • $\begingroup$ What have you tried so far? $\endgroup$ – Matteo Jan 27 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ I tried copying the IVT but could not connect it with an increasing function $\endgroup$ – The Poor Jew Jan 27 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ I think you can apply squeeze theorem after doing binary search $\endgroup$ – Mark Jan 27 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ For the function to be increasing, $[0,1]$ being it's range, isn't it necessary to have $f(0) = 0$? Forgive me if I'm mistaken. $\endgroup$ – Matteo Jan 27 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Matteo The function need not be surjective. It could be the constant function equal to $1$, for all we know. $\endgroup$ – Clement C. Jan 27 at 16:10

Start by defining the sequences $l_n, u_n$, where the variable names stand for "lower" and "upper". And let $x_n \equiv (l_n + u_n)/2$.

$l_0 \equiv 0, u_0 \equiv 1$

Now inductively define $l_k, u_k$:
If $f(x_{k-1}) \lt x_{k-1}$, define $u_k \equiv x_{k-1}, l_k \equiv l_{k-1}$ (shift the upper bound down).
If $f(x_{k-1}) > x_{k-1}$, define $u_k \equiv u_{k-1}, l_k \equiv x_{k-1}$ (shift the lower bound up)

(And if $f(x_{k-1}) = x_{k-1}$ we are done, so we can ignore this case).

This part is kind of like the intermediate value theorem, where we keep narrowing the search for our target.

The set $f([l_k, u_k])$ is in the square $[l_k, u_k]\times[l_k, u_k]$. (Using induction and $f$ is increasing. It's kind of clear if you draw a picture.)

For any $k$, the square $[l_k, u_k]\times[l_k, u_k]$ intersects the diagonal line $\{ (x, x )\}$ since it contains $(l_k, l_k)$, so if the sequence of nested squares converges, it converges to a point on the diagonal.

But it does converge, since $[l_k, u_k]$ converges to some singleton set $\{ c \}$.

Putting it all together, $\forall k, f(c) \in f([l_k, u_k]) \subset [l_k, u_k]\times[l_k, u_k]$.

$ f([c]) \in \cap_k [l_k, u_k]\times[l_k, u_k]$.

$ f([c]) \in \{ (c, c) \}$.

$ f(c) = c $.

  • $\begingroup$ I read your comment on @Surb answer. Of course some "real analysis" must be necessary. For if the domain is not complete (an interval), then the statement isn't true anymore. I added a counterexample in my answer. Do you agree? $\endgroup$ – Matteo Jan 28 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Matteo yes the only requirement is that the set in question is a complete lattice. After after that, the tarski fixed point theorem applies a purely logical argument. $\endgroup$ – Mark Jan 29 at 3:30


What about $$c=\inf\{x\in [0,1]\mid f(x)\leq x\}$$ if it exist ?

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    $\begingroup$ This approach is elucidated here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knaster–Tarski_theorem and is actually pretty interesting in that it doesn't require the use of any real analysis. $\endgroup$ – Mark Jan 28 at 6:05

Similar to Mark's solution. It makes use of Completeness principle.

If $f(0) = 0$, then $x = 0$; if $f(1) = 1$, then $x = 1$; otherwise let $a_0=f(0)$, $b_0=f(1)$, and, for $n=1,2,\dots$ repeat the following.

(1) Let $\Delta_n =\frac{a_{n-1}+b_{n-1}}{2}$,

(2) If $f\left(\Delta_n\right) = \Delta_n$, then $x = \Delta_n$ and we are done.

(3) If $f\left(\Delta_n\right) < \Delta_n$, set $a_n = a_{n-1}$, $b_n = \Delta_n$.

(4) If $f\left(\Delta_n\right) > \Delta_n$, set $a_n = \Delta_n$, $b_n = b_{n-1}$.

This leads to the construction of a monotonically increasing sequence $\left(a_n\right)_{n\in \mathbb Z^+}$ and a monotonically decreasing sequence $\left(b_n\right)_{n\in \mathbb Z^+}$, such that $$0=a_0 \leq a_1 \leq \cdots \leq a_n \cdots \leq b_n \cdots \leq b_1 \leq b_0=1,$$ with \begin{equation} f(b_n)<b_n,\tag{1}\label{eq:down} \end{equation} and \begin{equation} f(a_n)>a_n.\tag{2}\label{eq:up} \end{equation} Furthermore we have \begin{equation}b_n - a_n \leq \frac{1}{2^n}.\tag{3}\label{eq:diff}\end{equation} So, by boundedness and monotonicity the two sequences converge (here Completeness comes into play), and by \eqref{eq:diff}, they converge to the same number $\alpha \in [0,1]$.

Suppose now $f(\alpha) > \alpha$. Then, for sufficiently large $n$, $$\alpha \leq b_n < f(\alpha),$$ which, together with \eqref{eq:down} gives $$f(b_n) < b_n < f(\alpha),$$ contradicting monotonicity of $f$. Similarly, if $f(\alpha) < \alpha$, then, for sufficiently large $n$, $$f(\alpha) < a_n \leq \alpha,$$ so that, using \eqref{eq:up}, the inequality $$ f(a_n) > a_n > f(\alpha)$$ leads again to a contradiction. Thus, it must be $f(\alpha) = \alpha$.


Completeness is necessary for the statement to hold true. As a counterexample consider the function $f: [0,1]\cap \Bbb Q \rightarrow [0,1]\cap \Bbb Q$ $$f(x) = -\frac{1}{x-3}.$$ This function is continuous and strictly increasing in its domain, but there is no point in the domain in which $f(x) = x$.


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