Meaning of DIFFERENTIATION in English


in mathematics, process of finding the derivative (q.v.), or rate of change, of a function. In contrast to the abstract nature of the theory behind it, the practical technique of differentiation can be carried out by purely algebraic manipulations, using three basic derivatives, four rules of operation, and a knowledge of how to manipulate functions. The three basic derivatives are: (1) for algebraic functions, D(xn) = nxn - 1, in which n is any real number; (2) for trigonometric functions, D(sin x) = cos x; and (3) for exponential functions, D(ex) = ex. For functions built up of combinations of these classes of functions, the theory provides the following basic rules for differentiating the sum, product, or quotient of any two functions f(x) and g(x) the derivatives of which are known: D(af + bg) = aDf + bDf (sums); D(fg) = fDg + gDf (products); and D(f/g) = (gDf - fDg)/g2 (quotients). The other basic rule, called the chain rule, provides a way to differentiate a composite function. If f (x) and g(x) are two functions, the composite function f (g(x)) is calculated for a value of x by first evaluating g(x) and then evaluating the function f at this value of g(x); for instance, if f (x) = sin x and g(x) = x2, then f (g(x)) = sin x2, while g( f (x)) = (sin x)2. The chain rule states that the derivative of a composite function is given by a product, as D( f (g(x))) = Df(g(x))Dg(x). In words, the first factor on the right, Df(g(x)), indicates that the derivative of Df(x) is first found as usual, and then x, wherever it occurs, is replaced by the function g(x). In the example of sin x2, the rule gives the result D(sin x2) = Dsin(x2) D(x2) = (cos x2)2x.

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