General Mathematics


Understanding the "Chain Rule" by Deriving Your Own Version

Authors: James A. Smith

Because the Chain Rule can confuse students as much as it helps them solve real problems, we put ourselves in the shoes of the mathematicians who derived it, so that students may understand the motivation for the rule; its limitations; and why textbooks present it in its customary form. We begin by finding the derivative of sin2x without using the Chain Rule. That exercise, having shown that even a comparatively simple compound function can be bothersome to differentiate using the definition of the derivative as a limit, provides the motivation for developing our own formula for the derivative of the general compound function g[f(x)]. In the course of that development, we see why the function f must be continuous at any value of x to which the formula is applied. We finish by comparing our formula to that which is commonly given.

Comments: 12 Pages.

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Submission history

[v1] 2018-07-29 18:52:13

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