We use interval notation to represent subsets of real numbers. Suppose that a and b are real numbers such that a < b.
Then, the open interval (a,b) represents the set of all real numbers between a and b, except a and b.
The open interval [a,b] represents the set of all real numbers between a and b, including a and b.
The table below lists nine types of intervals used to describe subsets of real numbers. Notice the number line representation of each interval.
An interval is open if the interval does not contain its endpoints.
The symbols ( or ) are used to indicate that an endpoint is not included in the interval.
An interval is closed if the interval contains its endpoints.
The symbols [ or ] are used to indicate that an endpoint is included in the interval.
Sometimes, the interval may contain only one of its endpoints. In this case, the interval is half-open. The interval [2, 8) is half-open. It contains 2 and all numbers between 2 and 8. Notice that 8 is not included since the interval is open at 8.
Why do we need intervals? They can be used to describe the domains of functions, bounds for estimates, and the solution sets of equations and inequalities.
Express each inequality in interval notation.
Inequality Interval notation
-6 ≤ x < 1 [-6, 1)
x > 20 (20, ∞)
x ≥ -1 or x < -4 (-∞, -4) U [-1,∞)
Check this site if you want to learn more about inequalities and interval notation.