# Math 135 Class Notes

Spring 2009

1.4

° ¢ ° ¢ In the previous section, we saw that a secant line joining the points x, f (x) and x + h, f (x + h) on the graph of a function y = f (x) has slope msecant =

Diﬀerentiation Using Limits of Diﬀerence Quotients

f (x + h) − f (x) . h This diﬀerence quotient also represents the average rate of change of f (x) over the interval [x, x + h]. In this section, we’ll see that by taking the limit of this diﬀerence quotient as h → 0, we obtain the slope of the tangent line to the graph or the instantaneous rate of change of f (x) at x. TANGENT LINES A tangent to a curve is sometimes described as a line that touches the curve in exactly one point. For a circle, results from geometry tell us that a tangent line to a point on the circle is perpendicular to a radius intersecting the circle at that point, as shown in the ﬁgure below on the left.

L P
M

L

For more complicated curves, the above description is inadequate. The above ﬁgure on the right displays two lines L and M passing through a point P on a curve. The line M intersects only once, but it certainly does not look like what is thought of as a tangent. In contrast, the line L looks like a tangent, but it intersects twice. In order to deﬁne what we mean by the tangent line and in order to determine the tangent line, we need to use a limiting process. Suppose we have a function y = f (x) and we want to determine the tangent line at a point P on the curve. We start by drawing a secant line to the curve passing through P and another point Q on the curve. The secant line provides an approximation to the tangent line. The closer the point Q is to the point P , the better the secant line will approximate the tangent line.
y
f (x) f (x + h) Q (x + h, f (x + h))

y f (x) Q1 Secant lines Q2

Secant line

Tangent line
P P(x, f (x))

Q3 Q4 Tangent line

f (x)

x

x

By letting the point Q slide down the curve towards P , the corresponding secant lines will rotate about the point P . The tangent line will be the limiting position of the secant lines as Q approaches P . 15

16

Chapter 1

Diﬀerentiation

The slope of the secant line P Q is given by f (x + h) − f (x) . h As the point Q slides down the curve towards P , then the x-values x+h approach x, so h approaches 0. msecant = DEFINITION OF SLOPE OF TANGENT LINE ° ¢ The slope of the tangent line the graph of y = f (x) at the point x, f (x) is f (x + h) − f (x) . h→0 h This limit is also the instantaneous rate of change of f (x) at x. mtangent = lim

The limit in the above deﬁnition occurs so widely, it is given a special name and notation. DEFINITION OF DERIVATIVE For a function y = f (x), its derivative at x is the function f 0 deﬁned by f (x + h) − f (x) h→0 h 0 provided that the limit exists. If f (x) exists, then we say that f is diﬀerentiable at x. The notation f 0 (x) is read “f prime of x.” f 0 (x) = lim PROCEDURE FOR CALCULATING A DERIVATIVE To calculate the derivative of a function y = f (x): f (x + h) − f (x) 1. Write out the diﬀerence quotient: h 2. Simplify the diﬀerence quotient algebraically. After simplifying, the h in the denominator should cancel out. 3. Compute the limit algebraically using the Limit Principles. EXAMPLE the graph? Let f (x) = x2 . Find f 0 (x). Then ﬁnd f 0 (−1) and f 0 (2). What do these represent on
5 4 3 2 1 x y

–3

–2

–1 –1 –2

1

2

3

1.4

Diﬀerentiation Using Limits of Diﬀerence Quotients

17

EXAMPLE Let f (x) = x3 . Find f 0 (x). Then ﬁnd f 0 (−1) and f 0 (1.5). Find the equation of the tangent line to the graph at x = −1.
y 6 5 4 3 2 1 –3 –2 –1 –1 –2 –3 –4 –5 –6 1 2 3 x

EXAMPLE Let f (x) = 3/x. Find f 0 (x). Then ﬁnd f 0 (2) and the equation of the tangent line to the graph at x = 2.
y 5 4 3 2 1 –5 –4 –3 –2 –1 –1 –2 –3 –4 –5 1 2 3 4 5 x

18

Chapter 1

Diﬀerentiation

DIFFERENTIABILITY In the preceding example, note that since f (0) does not exist for f (x) = 3/x, the diﬀerence quotient f (0 + h) − f (0) h 0 cannot be computed. Therefore f (0) does not exist. We say that f is not diﬀerentiable at 0. In general, if a function is not deﬁned at a point, then it is not diﬀerentiable there. In fact, if a function is discontinuous at a point, then it is not diﬀerentiable at the point. There are other situations, however, in which a function is not diﬀerentiable. EXAMPLE Where is the function f (x) = |x| diﬀerentiable?

In general, if a function has a sharp point or corner, then it will not be diﬀerentiable at that point. For instance, the following functions are not diﬀerentiable at the indicated points.

A function will also fail to be diﬀerentiable at a point if it has a vertical tangent. Summarizing, we then have three situations where a function is not diﬀerentiable: • The graph has a sharp point or corner at that point. • The graph has a vertical tangent line. • The function is discontinuous at that point.