Differential Equations – Unit 7

Unit 7 is an introduction to the initial ideas and easy techniques related to differential equations . (CED – 2019 p. 129 – 142 ). These topics account for about 6 – 12% of questions on the AB exam and 6 – 9% of the BC questions.

Topics 7.1 – 7.9

Topic 7.1 Modeling Situations with Differential Equations Relating a functions and its derivatives.

Topic 7.2 Verifying Solutions for Differential Equations A proposed solution of a differential equation can be checked by substituting the function and its derivative(s) into the original differential equation. There may be an infinite number of general solutions (solutions with one or more constants).

Topic 7.3 Sketching Slope Fields Slope fields are a graphical representation of a differential equation and provide information about the behavior of the solutions.

Topic 7.4 Reasoning Using Slope Fields 

Topic 7.5 Approximating Solutions Using Euler’s method (BC ONLY) A numerical approach to approximating solutions of a differential equation.

Topic 7.6 Finding General Solutions Using Separation of Variable Since this unit is only an introduction to differential equations, the method of separation of variable is the only solution method tested on the AB and BC exams.

Topic 7.7 Finding Particular Solutions Using Initial Conditions and Separation of Variables An initial condition (i.e. a point on the particular solution) allows you to evaluate the constant in the general solution and find the one solution that contains the initial condition. Also, if \displaystyle \frac{{dy}}{{dx}}=f\left( x \right) has the initial condition \displaystyle \left( {a,F\left( a \right)} \right), then the solution is \displaystyle F\left( x \right)=F\left( a \right)+\int_{a}^{x}{{f\left( x \right)dx}}. Solution may also be subject to domain restrictions

Topic 7.8 Exponential Models with Differential Equations Applications include linear motion and exponential growth and decay. The growth and decay model is \displaystyle \frac{{dy}}{{dt}}=ky with the initial condition\displaystyle (0,{{y}_{0}}) has the solution \displaystyle y={{y}_{0}}{{e}^{{kt}}}.

Topic 7.9 Logistic Models with Differential Equations (BC ONLY) The model of logistic growth, \displaystyle \frac{{dy}}{{dt}}=ky\left( {a-y} \right), can be solved by separating the variables and using partial fraction decomposition. This has never been tested (probably because solving requires a large amount of complicated algebra). Students are expected to know how to interpret the properties of the solution directly from the differential equation (asymptotes, carrying capacity, point where changing the fastest, etc.) and discuss what they mean in context without actually solving the equation.


The suggested time for Unit 7 is  8 – 9 classes for AB and 9 – 10 for BC of 40 – 50-minute class periods, this includes time for testing etc.

Previous posts on these topics for both AB and BC include:

Differential Equations  A summary of the terms and techniques of differential equation and the method of separation of variables

Domain of a Differential Equation – On domain restrictions.

Accumulation and Differential Equations 

Slope Fields

An Exploration in Differential EquationsAn exploration illustrating many of the ideas of differential equations. The exploration is here in PDF form and the solution is here. The ideas include: finding the general solution of the differential equation by separating the variables, checking the solution by substitution, using a graphing utility to explore the solutions for all values of the constant of integration, finding the solutions’ horizontal and vertical asymptotes, finding several particular solutions, finding the domains of the particular solutions, finding the extreme value of all solutions in terms of C, finding the second derivative (implicit differentiation), considering concavity, and investigating a special case or two. 

Posts on BC Only Topics

Euler’s Method

Euler’s Method for Making Money

The Logistic Equation 

Logistic Growth – Real and Simulated


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