# Calculus

## The Case of the Disappearing Derivative

(A new question of the week) An interesting question we received in mid-January concerned two implicit derivative problems with an unusual feature: the derivative we are seeking disappears! How do you track down such elusive quarry? Each case is a little different.

## Two Inside-Out Limit Problems

(A new question of the week) Limits can be challenging. They can be even more challenging when they require L’HÃ´pital’s rule or more advanced methods (Maclaurin series), and then are turned inside-out by asking not for the limit itself, but for parameters that will result in a specified limit, or what values of the limit …

## A Geometrical Limit

(A new question of the week) We usually see limits applied to functions in a calculus class. An interesting question from late October deals with a limit in a geometrical construction based on a function. We’ll be seeing how to discover a proof, then several alternative proofs, and finally what the answer means.

## Broken Sticks, Triangles, and Probability II

Last week, we looked at two solutions to the problem of finding the probability that you can make a triangle using three pieces of a stick, if we cut it at two independently chosen, random locations. This time, we look another solution to that problem, and a similar solution to the version in which we …

## Intersecting a Parabola in Two Points

(A new question of the week) A good way to check (and hopefully build) a student’s depth of understanding is to assign non-routine problems, in which familiar ideas are twisted around so you have to come at them from a different direction. Here we’ll look at a question about a graph that can be solved …

## A Limit: Getting the Algebra Right

(A new question of the week) I have often said that calculus class is where many students finally learn algebra, because now algebra is an essential tool, not just something to learn for an exam. This is especially true of a nontraditional student, who may not have taken math recently, or may even be learning …

## Maximum Volume of a Box: Two Interpretations

(A new question of the week) Often the hardest part of solving a problem is interpreting what it means. Math is precise; human language can be ambiguous, and assumptions can be hidden. Today, we look at a multi-variable calculus problem that looked enough like a classic single-variable maximization problem to fool the reader into not …

## The Symmetric Derivative

To close out this series on the definition of the derivative, I want to look at a few questions about alternative versions of the definition, primarily the “symmetric difference quotient”. We’ll see that this leads to a slightly different result, not always equivalent to the original, and we’ll observe some associated ways that calculators can …

## Limits and Derivatives on the Edge

(New questions of the week) We’ve had a number of brief discussions recently, which feel too small on their own for a post; but several happen to be dealing with similar types of issues. These four questions, all from July, involve limits or derivatives at edges or holes in the domain of a function. Let’s …

## What Do dx and dy Mean?

We’ve looked at the meaning of the derivative, and of its various notations, including dy/dx. This leads to the next question: What does dx or dy mean on its own? This was touched on last time, but there’s a lot more to say that I couldn’t fit there. We’ll look at more advanced approaches to …