We observed some patterns that emerge in cobweb diagrams for certain types of fixed points. For an attractor, the pattern of steps in the cobweb diagram will be drawn towards the fixed point; for a repeller they move away. Furthermore, if the fixed point is direct, the pattern of steps will look like actual steps as they move towards or away from the fixed point, trapped between the two lines defined by the function we are iterating and y = x. If the fixed point is alternating, on the other hand, the pattern will spiral around the fixed point with each step, producing a picture that most clearly gives the cobweb diagram its name.
From there, we took our first look at non-linear functions, realizing quickly that in addition to having more than one fixed point, such functions can have different types of fixed points. One could be a direct repeller, while another an alternating attractor. The cobweb diagram remains our best way to observe these differences, and we used the Geogebra-based applications found here to create them.
We looked at 4a (y = x^2) together, classifying the fixed point at 1 as a direct repeller and the fixed point at 0 as a direct attractor. We furthermore observed that -1 is a “pre-image” to the fixed point at 1, and therefore we have different behavior for different seeds. Your homework tonight is to continue and look at 4b-4f, using the cobweb diagram app linked above and the Iterated Functions Supplement to keep track of your results.