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Precalculus Textbook, BrianWebbCorp.

Chapter 3: The Difference Quotient Is Very Significant


Lesson 1: Pre-Knowledge
The following is information that is being recapulated
from last year's text book.
Slope is a mathematical measurement that defines the
intensity and direction of a line. It can be can be calculated

Google Images: Thinking Cap Clipart

with the slope formula.


The slope formula is Y2 Y1 . The X and Y stand for the x and y coordinates of
X2 X1
two points on a line.
Tangent is a line that touches only one specific point on a line or curve. It
stretches out infinitely on both ends, but only touches the specific point once.

What you will need to know...

The difference quotient formula (DQ) is the formula that was


discovered as a way to find the slope of one point on a curve. This
formula will be proven on the next page.

Tangent lines are important for proving why the DQ formula work.
They play a big role in finding the slope of a point on a curve. ***

Setting a limit means to let an undefined variable approach the nearest


number it could be. For example, on the next page there will be a limit
set to 0.

*** The slope of a curve at some point x is equivalent to the slope of a line tangent to the
curve at point x.

Precalculus Textbook, BrianWebbCorp.

Lesson 2: Why does the DQ formula work?


Goal is to answer, "Why does finding the limit of the difference quotient as h approaches 0, help
us find the exact slope of a function at some point (x, f(x))?
Use the following three graphs as a reference for the information below.
Graph 1

Graph 2

Graph 3

If there are two points on a curve, it is quite difficult to calculate the most accurate slope
of each point. Clearly, this is because nonlinear functions (curves) have a constantly changing
slope.
In order to calculate an accurate slope of a specific point on a curve, another point on that
same curve should be used as a reference. For example, in Graph 1, 2, and 3 above, there
are two marked points on each parabola. P1, with coordinates (x, f(x)) and P2 with
coordinates (x+h, f(x+h)). For our purposes, the slope of P1 is going to be overlooked.
On the X-axis, the two coordinates, (x, 0) and (x+h, 0) have a difference of h. The Y-axis
shown simply represents the function of the x variable. There is also line drawn that is right
off of P1. This line is P1s tangent line. Which also means that the slope of this point P1 is
equivalent to the slope of its tangent line. This specific line will be an essential piece later on.
In order to find the slope of this line, we must use the slope formula. Referencing our graphs
above...
M= Y2 Y1

so, M (P1+P2) = f(x+h) f(x) .

X2 X1

x+h x

When M (P1+P2) is simplified, the denominator becomes h.


This new simplified form of M (P1+P2) is called the DQ formula. Using this formula, a
limit of h can be set to 0. Meaning that h is so close to 0 that it might as well become 0. This
leads back to our tangent line. If h has a limit set to 0, both points can touch the same
tangent line. Wouldnt that mean that both points have the same slope? Yes, exactly. This is
why using limits and the difference quotient (DQ) formula can help us find the slope of any
point on a curve.