Talk:Variation of parameters

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In the first example, it says "So, we obtain u1=e-2x, and u2=xe-2x." This is in my text too, but I never understood why. Could someone add a short comment saying why (e.g. "So, we obtain u1=e^-2x (see blahs_rule) and we introduce an x term (see blah2s_rule) as well to yield u2=xe^-2x"). (talk) 03:50, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

Using this for first-order ODEs[edit]

Can't this also be used for 1st order ODE's? Perhaps I'm thinking of a different method, but I was just looking at my Differential Equations Text, and the method seems the same, except for first order equations. Any thoughts? Gershwinrb 06:34, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

Any first-order linear ODE can be solved with little fuss — see Ordinary differential equation#General solution method for first-order linear ODEs — such that techniques like the method of variation of parameters are unnecessary. Ruakh 15:29, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
It should be noted that variation of parameters does work for first order ODE just as it does for 2nd order and higher. But you are correct that conceptually easier techniques are available there. (talk) 18:34, 5 March 2012 (UTC)

Should we also have examples for systems of equations and/or higher order ODEs? jleto

u is homogenous solution?[edit]

In the beginning of the Technique section, the article says and are "solutions" to the equation. It really means solutions to the homogenous equation, right? If not, I'm totally confused. This should be changed and made clear. Lavaka 05:32, 15 September 2006 (UTC)

Good call. I've fixed the article now. Ruakh 13:30, 15 September 2006 (UTC)
Thanks! Lavaka 01:55, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

Copy from Ordinary differential equation[edit]

I deleted the following text from the Ordinary differential equation where it consumed far too much space. I copied it here in case anyone is able to salvage some parts and integrate them into this article. MathMartin 20:24, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Method of variation of parameters[edit]

As explained above, the general solution to a non-homogeneous, linear differential equation can be expressed as the sum of the general solution to the corresponding homogenous, linear differential equation and any one solution to .

Like the method of undetermined coefficients, described above, the method of variation of parameters is a method for finding one solution to , having already found the general solution to . Unlike the method of undetermined coefficients, which fails except with certain specific forms of g(x), the method of variation of parameters will always work; however, it is significantly more difficult to use.

For a second-order equation, the method of variation of parameters makes use of the following fact:


Let p(x), q(x), and g(x) be functions, and let and be solutions to the homogeneous, linear differential equation . Further, let u(x) and v(x) be functions such that and for all x, and define . Then is a solution to the non-homogeneous, linear differential equation .



To solve the second-order, non-homogeneous, linear differential equation using the method of variation of parameters, use the following steps:

  1. Find the general solution to the corresponding homogeneous equation . Specifically, find two linearly independent solutions and .
  2. Since and are linearly independent solutions, their Wronskian is nonzero, so we can compute and . If the former is equal to u'(x) and the latter to v'(x), then u and v satisfy the two constraints given above: that and that . We can tell this after multiplying by the denominator and comparing coefficients.
  3. Integrate and to obtain u(x) and v(x), respectively. (Note that we only need one choice of u and v, so there is no need for constants of integration.)
  4. Compute . The function is one solution of .
  5. The general solution is , where and are arbitrary constants.
Higher-order equations[edit]

The method of variation of parameters can also be used with higher-order equations. For example, if , , and are linearly independent solutions to , then there exist functions u(x), v(x), and w(x) such that , , and . Having found such functions (by solving algebraically for u'(x), v'(x), and w'(x), then integrating each), we have , one solution to the equation .


Solve the previous example, Recall . From technique learned from 3.1, LHS has root of that yield , (so , ) and its derivatives

where the Wronskian

were computed in order to seek solution to its derivatives.

Upon integration,

Computing and :

Wrong Equation[edit]

In the fith equation of the section Method_of_variation_of_parameters#Method_of_variation_of_parameters it should be "b(x)" rather than "-b(x)". But i am not completely sure. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 13:33, 2 February 2007 (UTC).

Integrals and dummy variables[edit]

I think the integrals should be changed to use dummy variables -- as written now, they are misleading. The current format is but I'd much rather see a dummy variable, e.g. or at least Anyone interested in redoing this? --Lavaka 18:20, 17 April 2007 (UTC)

and I think
should be
as well, no? --Lavaka 18:27, 17 April 2007 (UTC)
actually, the is a constant, no? This should be made clear, and written --Lavaka 18:47, 17 April 2007 (UTC)
The current format is just the typical representation of indefinite integral. I can't see any problem with it. (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 01:18, 24 August 2009 (UTC).

Mistake in the First Example[edit]

The first example calculation involves an integral containing ,

Nowhere up to this point is defined; in fact (it refers to the right-hand-side of the ODE) the function on the right-hand-side has previously been called . —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:57, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

Annotation regarding coefficient-functions[edit]

I am not sure, whether the statement in parenthesis is 100% correct.

are continuous functions which satisfy the equations

(results from substitution of (iii) into the homogeneous case (ii); )

How is one supposed to conclude this from the described substitution?? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:47, 19 September 2010 (UTC)

You are right, that part is assumed, not computed. I changed it. (talk) 22:36, 2 February 2011 (UTC)


why equation 3 is true? Please tell, if you know, and have some time. eq 2 looks like definition of null space, and the y sub i forms a basis of the null space, a subspace of the vector space of — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:34, 2 June 2013 (UTC)

Newton's law and variation of parameters[edit]

It seems to me that someone should write a brief motivation (for second order ODEs) of the method via Newton's law. The left-hand side of a nonhomogeneous second-order ODE

is the net force on a mass attached to a damped spring. The right-hand side is the external force applied to the spring. The method of variation of parameters is nothing more than cumulatively adding to the solution during each time interval the effect of imparting an additional momentum to the mass. It would be nice if someone could track down a reference for this (and hopefully a clearer explanation) and add it to the article. The same essential idea applies more generally to Duhamel's principle. Sławomir Biały (talk) 18:42, 24 June 2013 (UTC)

Also the matrix formulation of variation of parameters is conspicuously absent from the article. Sławomir Biały (talk) 18:45, 24 June 2013 (UTC)

Merge content from Duhamel's principle[edit]

All the references I could find that mentioned both variation of parameters and Duhamel's principle said they were equivalent. Even the variation of parameters article says that they're related. I tried tracking down the source of "Duhamel's principle" and they just mention the superposition principle (again something done in variation of parameters). Variation of parameters seems like the more common term in overall usage. --Mathnerd314159 (talk) 05:50, 7 April 2017 (UTC)