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How to Solve Optimization Problems in Calculus

Need to solve Optimization problems in Calculus? Let’s break ’em down and develop a strategy that you can use to solve them routinely for yourself. Overview Optimization problems will always ask you to maximize or minimize some quantity, having described the situation using words (instead of immediately giving you a function to max/minimize). Typical phrases… [read more]

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garden fence (optimization problem)

Calculus Optimization Problem: What dimensions minimize the cost of a garden fence? Sam wants to build a garden fence to protect a rectangular 400 square-foot planting area. His next-door neighbor agrees to pay for half of the fence that borders her property; Sam will pay the rest of the cost. What are the dimensions of… [read more]

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Optimization Problem Solving Strategy

Calculus Optimization Problem Solving Strategy We will use the steps outlined below to solve each Calculus Optimization problem on this site, step-by-step, every single time. We hope that this will help you see the strategy we’re using so you can learn it too, and then be able to apply it to all of your problems,… [read more]

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printed poster (optimization problem)

Calculus Optimization Problem: What are the dimensions of the poster with the smallest total area? A rectangular poster must have a printed area of 320 cm$^2$. It will have top and bottom margins that are 5 cm each, and side margins that are 4 cm. What are the dimensions of the poster with the smallest… [read more]

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least expensive open-topped can (optimization problem)

Calculus Optimization Problem: What dimensions minimize the cost of an open-topped can? An open-topped cylindrical can must contain V cm$^3$ of liquid. (A typical can of soda, for example, has V = 355 cm$^3$.) What dimensions will minimize the cost of metal to construct the can? Calculus Solution We’ll use our standard Optimization Problem Solving… [read more]

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Optimization: Problems and Solutions We will solve every Calculus Optimization problem using the same Problem Solving Strategy time and again. You can see an overview of that strategy here (link will open in a new tab). We use that strategy to solve the problems below. Want access to all of our Calculus problems and solutions?… [read more]

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Update September 2022

All of our content is now free, with the goal of supporting anyone who is working to learn Calculus well.

To access our materials, please simply visit our Calculus Home screen.

Also new: we've added a forum,, also free to use.
If you need some help with a Calculus question, please post there and we'll do our best to assist!