1. The Differential
Earlier in the differentiation chapter, we wrote `dy/dx` and `f’(x)` to mean the same thing. We used `d/dx` as an operator.
We now see a different way to write, and to think about, the derivative.
We will use this new form of the derivative throughout this chapter on Integration.
mini-lecture on differentials.
Differentials are infinitely small quantities. We usually write differentials as `dx`, `dy`, `dt` (and so on), where:
`dx` is an infinitely small change in `x`;
`dy` is an infinitely small change in `y`; and
`dt` is an infinitely small change in `t`.
When comparing small changes in quantities that are related to each other (like in the case where `y` is some function f `x`, we say the differential `dy`, of `y = f(x)` is written:
`dy = f’(x)dx`
Note: We are now treating `dy/dx` more like a fraction (where we can manipulate the parts separately), rather than as an operator.
Find the differential `dy` of the function `y = 3x^5- x`.
Find the differential `dy` of the function `y = 5x^2-4x+2`.
We could use the differential to estimate the real change in value of a function (`Δy`) caused by a small change in `x` (written as `Δx`). Many text books do this, but it is pretty silly, since we can easily find the exact change - why approximate it?
We are introducing differentials here as an introduction to the notation used in integration.
How are dy, dx and Δy and Δx related?
`Delta y` means "change in `y`, and `Delta x` means "change in `x`.
As `Delta x` gets smaller, the ratio `(Delta y)/(Delta x)` becomes closer to the "instantaneous" ratio `dy/dx`.
That is, `lim_(Delta x->0) (Delta y)/(Delta x)=dy/dx`
See Slope of a tangent for some background on this.
We now go on to see how the differential is used to perform the opposite process of differentiation, which first we'll call antidifferentiation, and later integration.
Didn't find what you are looking for on this page? Try search:
Online Algebra Solver
This algebra solver can solve a wide range of math problems. (Please be patient while it loads.)
Go to: Online algebra solver
Ready for a break?
Play a math game.
(Well, not really a math game, but each game was made using math...)
The IntMath Newsletter
Sign up for the free IntMath Newsletter. Get math study tips, information, news and updates each fortnight. Join thousands of satisfied students, teachers and parents!
Calculus Lessons on DVD
Easy to understand calculus lessons on DVD. See samples before you commit.
More info: Calculus videos