Definition of the Derivative of a Function

The definition of the derivative in calculus, as the limit of the difference quotient, is explored interactively using an applet.

definition of derivative

The function to be explored has the form f(x) = a sin (b x + c) + d where a, b, c and d are parameters that can be changed. A secant through two points P and Q (on the graph of function f) is made to approach what is called the tangent line, at point P

, to the graph of f.

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TUTORIAL

1 - click on the button above "click here to start" and MAXIMIZE the window obtained.

2 - We start with two points $P$ and $Q$ on the graph of function f(x)= sin(x) (a = 1, b = 1, c = 0 and d = 0). Click on the button to make h (the difference in the x-coordinates of P and Q) smaller and notice how the secant through P and Q approaches what we call a tangent line to the graph of f. An important behavior to observe is also the convergence of the slope of the secant PQ to a finite value and that is the slope of the tangent line at x0.

3 - Use the slider to change the coordinate of P and repeat the above experiment. Each time note the geometrical behavior of the secant and the convergence of its slope to a finite value which is called the derivative at that point.

4 - Use the sliders to change a, b, c and d. Each time note the geometrical behavior of the secant and the convergence of its slope to a finite value which is called the derivative at that point.

More references on derivatives and differentiation.



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Updated: 2 April 2013

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