Well I am new to Mathematica and got really stuck solving this problem.

In class, I was ask to use the Lagrange multiplier method to find the maximum and minimum value of $f(x,y) = x^2+y^2$ which lies on the curve $x^4 + 4xy + 2y^4 = 8$

What I did was

F[x_, y_] := x^2 + y^2   
G[x_, y_] := x^4 + 4 x y + 2 y^4 - 8
gradf = {D[F[x, y], x], D[F[x, y], y]};
gradg = {D[G[x, y], x], D[G[x, y], y]};
Print["grad f = ", gradf]
output = grad f = {2 x,2 y}
Print["grad g = ", gradg]
output = grad g = {4 x^3+4 y,4 x+8 y^3}
Solve[{gradf[x, y] == lambda gradg[x, y], g[x, y] == 8}, {x, y, lambda}]

Then after this part I keep getting an error message or some ridiculous infinite number.

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    – bbgodfrey
    Jul 2, 2015 at 1:51
  • 1
  • $\begingroup$ @belisaurius's solution below is a good one, but just to make explicit the errors in your above code: (1) gradf and gradf[x, y] are not the same thing as far as Mathematica is concerned (you use these inconsistently); (2) G[x, y] and g[x, y] are not interchangeable (you define the former and then use the latter in Solve); (3) it's generally best practice to avoid defining capitalized variables, as they can't conflict with Mathematica's own predefined functions; (4) your output statements don't actually do anything. $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2015 at 17:40

1 Answer 1


The "canonical" way in Mathematica is

f[x_, y_] := x^2 + y^2
g[x_, y_] := x^4 + 4 x y + 2 y^4 - 8
Maximize[{f[x, y], g[x, y] == 0}, {x, y}]

If you want to make explicit usage of the Lagrange multiplier:

ss = N@Solve[Grad[f[x, y] + λ g[x, y], {x, y}] == 0 && g[x, y] == 0, {x, y, λ}, Reals]

gives the {x, y} coordinates of the maxs and mins.

 ContourPlot[f[x, y],      {x, -3, 3}, {y, -3, 3}, ColorFunction -> "Pastel",
             Epilog -> {Red, PointSize[Large], Point[{x, y} /. ss]}],
 ContourPlot[g[x, y] == 0, {x, -3, 3}, {y, -3, 3}, ContourStyle -> {Thick, Green}]]

Mathematica graphics


If you want to keep your own grad definitions you could write:

Solve[{gradf == λ gradg, g[x, y] == 0}, {x, y, λ}, Reals] // N
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ bel, why not just use the third argument of Solve[] to throw out the complex solutions? $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2015 at 3:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @J.M. Didn't work when I tried it first. Tried again after reading your comment and the obvious conclusion is that I made a mistake the first time. :) $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2015 at 3:41
  • $\begingroup$ nice and elegant; did not know about the third argument of Solve. $\endgroup$
    – chris
    Jul 2, 2015 at 6:52
  • $\begingroup$ …and if you're still stuck in a version without Grad[]: D[f, {{x, y}}]. $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2015 at 14:55

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