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of Two Variables

Local Linearity

Recall that when we zoom in on a “sufficiently

nice” function of two variables, we see a plane.

What is meant by “sufficiently

nice”?

Suppose we zoom in on the function z=f(x,y)

centering our zoom on the point (a,b) and we see a

plane. What can we say about the plane?

• The partial derivatives for the plane at the point

must be the same as the partial derivatives for the

function.

• Therefore, the equation for the tangent plane is

( , ) ( , ) ( , )( ) ( , )( )

f f

L x y f a b a b x a a b y b

x y

In particular. . .

The Partial Derivatives Must Exist

If the partial derivatives don’t exist at the point

(a,b), the function f cannot be locally planar at

(a,b).

Example: (as given in text) A cone

with vertex at the origin cannot be

locally planar there, as it is clear that the

x and y cross sections are not

differentiable there.

Not enough: A Puny Condition

Suppose we have a function

1 if 0 or 0

( , )

0 if neither nor is 0

x y

f x y

x y

Notice several things:

•Both partial derivatives exist at x=0.

•The function is not locally planar at x=0.

•The function is not continuous at x=0.

Whoa! The

existence of the

partial derivatives

doesn’t even

guarantee

continuity at the

point!

Directional Derivatives?

It’s not even good enough

for all of the directional

derivatives to exist!

Just take a function that is

a bunch of straight lines

through the origin with

random slopes. (One for

each direction in the

plane.)

Directional Derivatives?

It’s not even good enough

for all of the directional

derivatives to exist!

Locally Planar at the origin?

What do you think?

Directional Derivatives?

If you don’t believe this is

a function, just look at it

from “above”.

There’s one output (z

value) for each input

(point (x,y)).

Differentiability

The function z = f(x,y) is differentiable (locally

planar) at the point (a,b)

if and only if

the partial derivatives of f exist and are

continuous in a small disk centered at (a,b).

Differentiability: A precise

definition

A function f(x,y) is said to be differentiable at the point

(a,b) provided that there exist real numbers m and n

and a function E(x,y) such that for all x and y

and

( , ) ( , ) ( ) ( ) ( , ) f x y f a b n x a m y b E x y

2 2

( , )

0 as (x,y) 0

E x y

x y

E(x) for One-Variable Functions

But E(x)→0 is not enough, even

for functions of one variable!

( , ( )) p f p

What happens to E(x)

as x approaches p?

( , ( )) p f p

E(x) measures the vertical

distance between f (x) and L

p

(x)

( ) E x

( ) E x

( , ( ))

p

x L x

( , ( )) x f x

( , ( ))

p

x L x

( , ( )) x f x

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