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For last week’s homework assignment you were asked to ﬁnd a function f ∗ giving the slope of the curve y = f (x) at the point (x, f (x)), where f (x) = x2 − 3x + 4. You did this by using your graphing calculator to determine the slopes of certain lines, forming a table and then ﬁnding a formula that best ﬁt the data. This week you will make your ﬁndings more rigorous, by developing an algebraic argument, an argument that does not make use of the graphing calculator, to ﬁnd the function f ∗ . One of the deﬁciencies of the method used last week is that in reality you only found estimates of the slope at a few points. Based on this information you made an educated guess about what the function should be. The ﬁrst improvement we would like to make is to argue about the slope of y = f (x) at an arbitrary point (x0 , f (x0 )) on the graph of y = f (x), rather than focusing on a few particular points like (1, 2) or (2.5, 2.75). When you examine very small sections of the curve y = x2 − 3x + 4 around a given point the curve looks very much like a line, and in fact it was this observation that allowed us to associate the notion of a slope to a point on the curve. If we focus on some (arbitrary) point (x0 , f (x0 )), it makes sense that if we pick another point on the curve very, very close to (x0 , f (x0 )), the portion of the graph between these two points looks like a segment of a line. (Why?) If we could ﬁnd the slope of this particular line, we would have a good estimate of the slope of the curve y = f (x) at the point (x0 , f (x0 )). (Why?) It remains then to pick a point on the curve very, very close to (x0 , f (x0 )). A clever way (clever because it will be useful later) to do this is to look at the point on the graph of y = f (x) corresponding to x = x0 + h , where h is some very, very small number close to 0. Notice that we think of h as standing for some small nonzero quantity, but we are not assigning a speciﬁc numerical value to h.

f (x0 )) and (x0 + h. f (x0 )) and (x0 + h. Using this fact. Suppose that h → 0: i. very close together. We examine now the line between the two points (x0 . the points (x0 . How does this formula compare to the one you found for f ∗ in last week’s team homework? Explain how the method used in this team assignment is similar to the one used last week to ﬁnd the slope of a curve. as h approaches 0? If you have simpliﬁed your expression for the slope correctly. since x0 and h have not been assigned numerical values. f (x)). the closer the two points get together. Remember that the choice of x0 was arbitrary. Of course. f (x0 + h)). You are left then with some expression for the slope in terms of x0 only. . and we know that these two points are very. (Why?) In fact. the slope of the curve y = f (x) at the point (x.We have now two points on the graph of y = f (x). that h gets closer and closer to 0.e. What does the expression for the slope get closer and closer to. the smaller we make h. write down a formula for f (x). and the more the portion of the graph between the two points looks like a segment of a line (why?). f (x0 + h)) . and then explain carefully why the present method is an improvement on last week’s method. h should disappear from the equation for the slope as h → 0..) Compute the slope of this line and simplify your answer as much as possible. Let f (x0 ) denote this expression. (It will help to draw a sketch of the situation. your answer will not be a number but an expression in terms of x0 and h.

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