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Lesson 15 of 24
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Differentiation Rules

Finding derivatives of functions by using the definition of the derivative can be a lengthy and, for certain functions, a rather challenging process. For example, previously we found that  by using a process that involved multiplying an expression by a conjugate prior to evaluating a limit. The process that we could use to evaluate  using the definition, while similar, is more complicated. In this section, we develop rules for finding derivatives that allow us to bypass this process. We begin with the basics.

The Basic Rules

The functions  and  where  is a positive integer are the building blocks from which all polynomials and rational functions are constructed. To find derivatives of polynomials and rational functions efficiently without resorting to the limit definition of the derivative, we must first develop formulas for differentiating these basic functions.

The Constant Rule

We first apply the limit definition of the derivative to find the derivative of the constant function, . For this function, both  and , so we obtain the following result:

The rule for differentiating constant functions is called the constant rule. It states that the derivative of a constant function is zero; that is, since a constant function is a horizontal line, the slope, or the rate of change, of a constant function is 0. We restate this rule in the following theorem.

The Constant Rule

Let  be a constant.

If , then .

Alternatively, we may express this rule as.

Applying the Constant Rule

Find the derivative of .

Solution

This is just a one-step application of the rule:.

Find the derivative of .

0

Hint

Use the preceding example as a guide.

The Power Rule

We have shown that and .

At this point, you might see a pattern beginning to develop for derivatives of the form . We continue our examination of derivative formulas by differentiating power functions of the form  where  is a positive integer. We develop formulas for derivatives of this type of function in stages, beginning with positive integer powers. Before stating and proving the general rule for derivatives of functions of this form, we take a look at a specific case, .

Differentiating

Find .

Find .

Hint

Use  and follow the procedure outlined in the preceding example.

As we shall see, the procedure for finding the derivative of the general form  is very similar. Although it is often unwise to draw general conclusions from specific examples, we note that when we differentiate , the power on  becomes the coefficient of  in the derivative and the power on  in the derivative decreases by 1. The following theorem states that this power rule holds for all positive integer powers of . We will eventually extend this result to negative integer powers. Later, we will see that this rule may also be extended first to rational powers of  and then to arbitrary powers of . Be aware, however, that this rule does not apply to functions in which a constant is raised to a variable power, such as .

The Power Rule

Let  be a positive integer. If , then.

Alternatively, we may express this rule as.

Proof

For  where  is a positive integer, we have.Since ,

we see that.

Next, divide both sides by :.

Thus,.

Finally,

Applying the Power Rule

Find the derivative of the function  by applying the power rule.

Solution

Using the power rule with , we obtain.

Find the derivative of .

Hint

Use the power rule with .

The Sum, Difference, and Constant Multiple Rules

We find our next differentiation rules by looking at derivatives of sums, differences, and constant multiples of functions. Just as when we work with functions, there are rules that make it easier to find derivatives of functions that we add, subtract, or multiply by a constant. These rules are summarized in the following theorem.

Sum, Difference, and Constant Multiple Rules

Let  and  be differentiable functions and  be a constant. Then each of the following equations holds.

Sum Rule. The derivative of the sum of a function  and a function  is the same as the sum of the derivative of  and the derivative of .;

that is,for .

Difference Rule. The derivative of the difference of a function  and a function  is the same as the difference of the derivative of  and the derivative of .;

that is,for .

Constant Multiple Rule. The derivative of a constant  multiplied by a function  is the same as the constant multiplied by the derivative:;

that is,for .

Proof

We provide only the proof of the sum rule here. The rest follow in a similar manner.

For differentiable functions  and , we set . Using the limit definition of the derivative we have.

By substituting  and , we obtain.

Rearranging and regrouping the terms, we have.

We now apply the sum law for limits and the definition of the derivative to obtain

Applying the Constant Multiple Rule

Find the derivative of  and compare it to the derivative of .

Solution

We use the power rule directly:.

Since  has derivative , we see that the derivative of  is 3 times the derivative of . This relationship is illustrated in (Figure).

The derivative of  is 3 times the derivative of .

Applying Basic Derivative Rules

Find the derivative of .

Solution

We begin by applying the rule for differentiating the sum of two functions, followed by the rules for differentiating constant multiples of functions and the rule for differentiating powers. To better understand the sequence in which the differentiation rules are applied, we use Leibniz notation throughout the solution:

Find the derivative of .

.

Hint

Use the preceding example as a guide.

Finding the Equation of a Tangent Line

Find the equation of the line tangent to the graph of  at .

Solution

To find the equation of the tangent line, we need a point and a slope. To find the point, compute.

This gives us the point . Since the slope of the tangent line at 1 is , we must first find . Using the definition of a derivative, we have

so the slope of the tangent line is . Using the point-slope formula, we see that the equation of the tangent line is.

Putting the equation of the line in slope-intercept form, we obtain.

Find the equation of the line tangent to the graph of  at . Use the point-slope form.

Hint

Use the preceding example as a guide.

The Product Rule

Now that we have examined the basic rules, we can begin looking at some of the more advanced rules. The first one examines the derivative of the product of two functions. Although it might be tempting to assume that the derivative of the product is the product of the derivatives, similar to the sum and difference rules, the product rule does not follow this pattern. To see why we cannot use this pattern, consider the function , whose derivative is  and not .

Product Rule

Let  and  be differentiable functions. Then.

That is,if  then .

This means that the derivative of a product of two functions is the derivative of the first function times the second function plus the derivative of the second function times the first function.

Proof

We begin by assuming that  and  are differentiable functions. At a key point in this proof we need to use the fact that, since  is differentiable, it is also continuous. In particular, we use the fact that since  is continuous, .

By applying the limit definition of the derivative to , we obtain.

By adding and subtracting  in the numerator, we have.

After breaking apart this quotient and applying the sum law for limits, the derivative becomes.

Rearranging, we obtain.

By using the continuity of , the definition of the derivatives of  and , and applying the limit laws, we arrive at the product rule,

Applying the Product Rule to Constant Functions

For , use the product rule to find  if , and .

Solution

Since , and hence.

Applying the Product Rule to Binomials

For , find  by applying the product rule. Check the result by first finding the product and then differentiating.

Solution

If we set  and , then  and . Thus,.

Simplifying, we have.

To check, we see that  and, consequently, .

Use the product rule to obtain the derivative of .

.

Hint

Set  and  and use the preceding example as a guide.

The Quotient Rule

Having developed and practiced the product rule, we now consider differentiating quotients of functions. As we see in the following theorem, the derivative of the quotient is not the quotient of the derivatives; rather, it is the derivative of the function in the numerator times the function in the denominator minus the derivative of the function in the denominator times the function in the numerator, all divided by the square of the function in the denominator. In order to better grasp why we cannot simply take the quotient of the derivatives, keep in mind that, which is not the same as .

The Quotient Rule

Let  and  be differentiable functions. Then.

That is,if , then .

The proof of the quotient rule is very similar to the proof of the product rule, so it is omitted here. Instead, we apply this new rule for finding derivatives in the next example.

Applying the Quotient Rule

Use the quotient rule to find the derivative of .

Solution

Let  and . Thus,  and . Substituting into the quotient rule, we have.

Simplifying, we obtain.

Find the derivative of .

.

Hint

Apply the quotient rule with  and .

It is now possible to use the quotient rule to extend the power rule to find derivatives of functions of the form  where  is a negative integer.

Extended Power Rule

If  is a negative integer, then.

Proof

If  is a negative integer, we may set , so that  is a positive integer with . Since for each positive integer , we may now apply the quotient rule by setting  and . In this case,  and . Thus,.

Simplifying, we see that.

Finally, observe that since , by substituting we have

Using the Extended Power Rule

Find .

Solution

By applying the extended power rule with , we obtain.

Using the Extended Power Rule and the Constant Multiple Rule

Use the extended power rule and the constant multiple rule to find .

Solution

It may seem tempting to use the quotient rule to find this derivative, and it would certainly not be incorrect to do so. However, it is far easier to differentiate this function by first rewriting it as .

Find the derivative of  using the extended power rule.

.

Hint

Rewrite . Use the extended power rule with .

Combining Differentiation Rules

As we have seen throughout the examples in this section, it seldom happens that we are called on to apply just one differentiation rule to find the derivative of a given function. At this point, by combining the differentiation rules, we may find the derivatives of any polynomial or rational function. Later on we will encounter more complex combinations of differentiation rules. A good rule of thumb to use when applying several rules is to apply the rules in reverse of the order in which we would evaluate the function.

Combining Differentiation Rules

For , find .

Solution

Finding this derivative requires the sum rule, the constant multiple rule, and the product rule.

Extending the Product Rule

For , express  in terms of , and their derivatives.

Solution

We can think of the function  as the product of the function  and the function . That is, . Thus,

Combining the Quotient Rule and the Product Rule

For , find .

Solution

This procedure is typical for finding the derivative of a rational function.

Find .

.

Hint

Apply the difference rule and the constant multiple rule.

Determining Where a Function Has a Horizontal Tangent

Determine the values of  for which  has a horizontal tangent line.

Solution

To find the values of  for which  has a horizontal tangent line, we must solve . Since,

we must solve . Thus we see that the function has horizontal tangent lines at  and  as shown in the following graph.

Finding a Velocity

The position of an object on a coordinate axis at time  is given by . What is the initial velocity of the object?

Solution

Since the initial velocity is , begin by finding  by applying the quotient rule:.

After evaluating, we see that .

Find the value(s) of  for which the line tangent to the graph of  is parallel to the line .

Hint

Solve the equation .

Student Project — Formula One Grandstands

Formula One car races can be very exciting to watch and attract a lot of spectators. Formula One track designers have to ensure sufficient grandstand space is available around the track to accommodate these viewers. However, car racing can be dangerous, and safety considerations are paramount. The grandstands must be placed where spectators will not be in danger should a driver lose control of a car ((Figure)).

**********

Safety is especially a concern on turns. If a driver does not slow down enough before entering the turn, the car may slide off the racetrack. Normally, this just results in a wider turn, which slows the driver down. But if the driver loses control completely, the car may fly off the track entirely, on a path tangent to the curve of the racetrack.

Suppose you are designing a new Formula One track. One section of the track can be modeled by the function  ((Figure)). The current plan calls for grandstands to be built along the first straightaway and around a portion of the first curve. The plans call for the front corner of the grandstand to be located at the point . We want to determine whether this location puts the spectators in danger if a driver loses control of the car.

1. Physicists have determined that drivers are most likely to lose control of their cars as they are coming into a turn, at the point where the slope of the tangent line is 1. Find the  coordinates of this point near the turn.
2. Find the equation of the tangent line to the curve at this point.
3. To determine whether the spectators are in danger in this scenario, find the -coordinate of the point where the tangent line crosses the line . Is this point safely to the right of the grandstand? Or are the spectators in danger?
4. What if a driver loses control earlier than the physicists project? Suppose a driver loses control at the point . What is the slope of the tangent line at this point?
5. If a driver loses control as described in part 4, are the spectators safe?
6. Should you proceed with the current design for the grandstand, or should the grandstands be moved?

Key Concepts

• The derivative of a constant function is zero.
• The derivative of a power function is a function in which the power on  becomes the coefficient of the term and the power on  in the derivative decreases by 1.
• The derivative of a constant  multiplied by a function  is the same as the constant multiplied by the derivative.
• The derivative of the sum of a function  and a function  is the same as the sum of the derivative of  and the derivative of .
• The derivative of the difference of a function  and a function  is the same as the difference of the derivative of  and the derivative of .
• The derivative of a product of two functions is the derivative of the first function times the second function plus the derivative of the second function times the first function.
• The derivative of the quotient of two functions is the derivative of the first function times the second function minus the derivative of the second function times the first function, all divided by the square of the second function.
• We used the limit definition of the derivative to develop formulas that allow us to find derivatives without resorting to the definition of the derivative. These formulas can be used singly or in combination with each other.