Foreshadowing the MVT

The Mean Value Theorem (MVT) is proved by writing the equation of a function giving the (directed) length of a segment from the given function to the line between the endpoints as you can see here. Since the function and the line intersect at the endpoints of the interval this function satisfies the hypotheses of Rolle’s theorem and so the MVT follows directly. This means that the derivative of the distance function is zero at the points guaranteed by the MVT. Therefore, these values must also be the location of the local extreme values (maximums and minimums) of the distance function on the open interval. *

Here is an exploration in three similar examples that use this idea to foreshadow the MVT. You, of course, can use your own favorite function. Any differentiable function may be used, in which case a CAS calculator may be helpful. Answers are at the end.

First example:

Consider the function \displaystyle f\left( x \right)=x+2\sin \left( {\pi x} \right) defined on the closed interval [–1,3]

  1. Write the equation of the line thru the endpoints of the function.
  2. Write an expression for h(x) the vertical distance between f(x) and the line found in part 1.
  3. Find the x-coordinates of the local extreme values of h(x) on the open interval (–1,3).
  4. Find the slope of f(x) at the values found in part 3.
  5. Compare your answer to part 4 with the slope of the line. Is this a coincidence?

Second example: slightly more difficult than the first.

Consider the function \displaystyle f\left( x \right)=1+x+2\cos (x) defined on the closed interval \displaystyle [\tfrac{\pi }{2},\tfrac{{9\pi }}{2}].

  1. Write the equation of the line thru the endpoints of the function.
  2. Write an expression for h(x) the vertical distance between f(x) and the line found in part 1.
  3. Find the x-coordinates of the local extreme values of h(x) on the open interval \displaystyle \left( {\tfrac{\pi }{2},\tfrac{{9\pi }}{2}} \right).
  4. Find the slope of f(x) at the values found in part 3.
  5. Compare your answer to part 4 with the slope of the line. Is this a coincidence?

Third example: In case you think I cooked the numbers. You may want to use a CAS for this one. 

Consider the function \displaystyle f(x)={{x}^{3}} defined on the closed interval \displaystyle [-4,5].

  1. Write the equation of the line thru the endpoints of the function.
  2. Write an expression for h(x) the vertical distance between f(x) and the line found in part 1.
  3. Find the x-coordinates of the local extreme values of h(x) on the open interval \displaystyle \left( {-4,5} \right).
  4. Find the slope of f(x) at the values found in part 3.
  5. Compare your answer to part 4 with the slope of the line. Is this a coincidence?

Answers

First example:

  1. y = x
  2. \displaystyle h(x)=f(x)-y(x)=x-\left( {x+2\sin (\pi x} \right)=\left( {2\sin (\pi x} \right)
  3. \displaystyle {h}'\left( x \right)=2\pi \cos \left( {\pi x} \right)=0 when x = –1/2, ½, 3/2 and 5/2
  4. \displaystyle {f}'\left( x \right)=1+2\pi \cos \left( {\pi x} \right)=1, the slope = 1 at all four points
  5. They are the same. Not a coincidence.

Second example:

  1. The endpoints are \displaystyle \left( {\tfrac{\pi }{2},1+\tfrac{\pi }{2}} \right) and \displaystyle \left( {\tfrac{9\pi }{2},1+\tfrac{{9\pi }}{2}} \right); the line is \displaystyle y=x+1
  2. \displaystyle h(x)=f(x)-y(x)=\left( {1+x+2\cos (x)} \right)-(x+1)=2\cos (x)
  3. \displaystyle {h}'\left( x \right)=-2\sin (x)=0 when \displaystyle x=\pi ,2\pi ,3\pi ,\text{ and }4\pi
  4. \displaystyle {f}'\left( x \right)=1-2\sin \left( x \right)=1; at the points above the slope is 1.
  5. They are the same. Not a coincidence.

Third example:

  1. The endpoints are (-4, -64) and (5, 125), the line is \displaystyle y=125+21\left( {x-5} \right)=21x+20.
  2. \displaystyle h\left( x \right)={{x}^{3}}-21x-20
  3. \displaystyle {h}'\left( x \right)=3{{x}^{2}}-21=0 when \displaystyle x=\sqrt{7},-\sqrt{7}
  4. \displaystyle {f}'\left( {\pm \sqrt{7}} \right)=3{{\left( {\pm \sqrt{7}} \right)}^{2}}=21
  5. They are the same. Not a coincidence.

See this post for links to other posts discussing the full development of the MVT


* It is possible that the derivative is zero and the point is not an extreme value. This is like the situation with a point of inflection when the first derivative is zero but does not change sign.

 


This post was originally published on October 19, 2018.

Unit 5 – Analytical Applications of Differentiation

Unit 5 covers the application of derivatives to the analysis of functions and graphs. Reasoning and justification of results are also important themes in this unit. (CED – 2019 p. 92 – 107). These topics account for about 15 – 18% of questions on the AB exam and 8 – 11% of the BC questions.

You may want to consider teaching Unit 4 after Unit 5. Notes on Unit 4 are here.

Reasoning and writing justification of results are mentioned and stressed in the introduction to the topic (p. 93) and for most of the individual topics. See Learning Objective FUN-A.4 “Justify conclusions about the behavior of a function based on the behavior of its derivatives,” and likewise in FUN-1.C for the Extreme value theorem, and FUN-4.E for implicitly defined functions. Be sure to include writing justifications as you go through this topic. Use past free-response questions as exercises and also as guide as to what constitutes a good justification. Links in the margins of the CED are also helpful and give hints on writing justifications and what is required to earn credit. See the presentation Writing on the AP Calculus Exams and its handout

Topics 5.1

Topic 5.1 Using the Mean Value Theorem While not specifically named in the CED, Rolle’s Theorem is a lemma for the Mean Value Theorem (MVT). The MVT states that for a function that is continuous on the closed interval and differentiable over the corresponding open interval, there is at least one place in the open interval where the average rate of change equals the instantaneous rate of change (derivative). This is a very important existence theorem that is used to prove other important ideas in calculus. Students often confuse the average rate of change, the mean value, and the average value of a function – See What’s a Mean Old Average Anyway?

Topics 5.2 – 5.9

Topic 5.2 Extreme Value Theorem, Global Verses Local Extrema, and Critical Points An existence theorem for continuous functions on closed intervals

Topic 5.3 Determining Intervals on Which a Function is Increasing or Decreasing Using the first derivative to determine where a function is increasing and decreasing.

Topic 5.4 Using the First Derivative Test to Determine Relative (Local) Extrema Using the first derivative to determine local extreme values of a function

Topic 5.5 Using the Candidates’ Test to Determine Absolute (Global) Extrema The Candidates’ test can be used to find all extreme values of a function on a closed interval

Topic 5.6 Determining Concavity of Functions on Their Domains FUN-4.A.4 defines (at least for AP Calculus) When a function is concave up and down based on the behavior of the first derivative. (Some textbooks may use different equivalent definitions.) Points of inflection are also included under this topic.

Topic 5.7 Using the Second Derivative Test to Determine Extrema Using the Second Derivative Test to determine if a critical point is a maximum or minimum point. If a continuous function has only one critical point on an interval then it is the absolute (global) maximum or minimum for the function on that interval.

Topic 5.8 Sketching Graphs of Functions and Their Derivatives First and second derivatives give graphical and numerical information about a function and can be used to locate important points on the graph of the function.

Topic 5.9 Connecting a Function, Its First Derivative, and Its Second Derivative First and second derivatives give graphical and numerical information about a function and can be used to locate important points on the graph of the function.

Topics 5.10 – 5.11

Optimization is an important application of derivatives. Optimization problems as presented in most textbooks, begin with writing the model or equation that describes the situation to be optimized. This proves difficult for students, and is not “calculus” per se. Therefore, writing the equation has not been asked on AP exams in recent years (since 1983). Questions give the expression to be optimized and students do the “calculus” to find the maximum or minimum values. To save time, my suggestion is to not spend too much time writing the equations; rather concentrate on finding the extreme values.

Topic 5.10 Introduction to Optimization Problems 

Topic 5.11 Solving Optimization Problems

Topics 5.12

Topic 5.12 Exploring Behaviors of Implicit Relations Critical points of implicitly defined relations can be found using the technique of implicit differentiation. This is an AB and BC topic. For BC students the techniques are applied later to parametric and vector functions.


Timing

Topic 5.1 is important and may take more than one day. Topics 5.2 – 5.9 flow together and for graphing they are used together; after presenting topics 5.2 – 5.7 spend the time in topics 5.8 and 5.9 spiraling and connecting the previous topics. Topics 5.10 and 5.11 – see note above and spend minimum time here. Topic 5.12 may take 2 days.

The suggested time for Unit 5 is 15 – 16 classes for AB and 10 – 11 for BC of 40 – 50-minute class periods, this includes time for testing etc.

Finally, were I still teaching, I would teach this unit before Unit 4. The linear motion topic (in Unit 4) are a special case of the graphing ideas in Unit 5, so it seems reasonable to teach this unit first. See Motion Problems: Same thing, Different Context

This is a re-post and update of the third in a series of posts from last year. It contains links to posts on this blog about the differentiation of composite, implicit, and inverse functions for your reference in planning. Other updated post on the 2019 CED will come throughout the year, hopefully, a few weeks before you get to the topic. 


Previous posts on these topics include:

Then There Is This – Existence Theorems

What’s a Mean Old Average Anyway

Did He, or Didn’t He?   History: how to find extreme values without calculus

Mean Value Theorem

Foreshadowing the MVT

Fermat’s Penultimate Theorem

Rolle’s theorem

The Mean Value Theorem I

The Mean Value Theorem II

Graphing

Concepts Related to Graphs

The Shapes of a Graph

Joining the Pieces of a Graph

Extreme Values

Extremes without Calculus

Concavity

Reading the Derivative’s Graph

        Other Asymptotes

Real “Real-life” Graph Reading

Far Out! An exploration

Open or closed Should intervals of increasing, decreasing, or concavity be open or closed?

Others

Lin McMullin’s Theorem and More Gold  The Golden Ratio in polynomials

Soda Cans Optimization video

Optimization – Reflections   

Curves with Extrema?

Good Question 10 – The Cone Problem

Implicit Differentiation of Parametric Equations    BC Topic


Here are links to the full list of posts discussing the ten units in the 2019 Course and Exam Description.

Limits and Continuity – Unit 1  (8-11-2020)

Definition of t he Derivative – Unit 2  (8-25-2020)

Differentiation: Composite, Implicit, and Inverse Function – Unit 3  (9-8-2020)

Contextual Applications of the Derivative – Unit 4   (9-22-2002)   Consider teaching Unit 5 before Unit 4

Analytical Applications of Differentiation – Unit 5  (9-29-2020) Consider teaching Unit 5 before Unit 4 THIS POST

LAST YEAR’S POSTS – These will be updated in coming weeks

2019 – CED Unit 6 Integration and Accumulation of Change

2019 – CED Unit 7 Differential Equations  Consider teaching after Unit 8

2019 – CED Unit 8 Applications of Integration   Consider teaching after Unit 6, before Unit 7

2019 – CED Unit 9 Parametric Equations, Polar Coordinates, and Vector-Values Functions 

2019 CED Unit 10 Infinite Sequences and Series


Motion Problems: Same Thing, Different Context

Calculus is about things that are changing. Certainly, things that move are changing, changing their position, velocity, and acceleration. Most calculus textbooks deal with things being dropped or thrown up into the air. This is called uniformly accelerated motion since the acceleration is due to gravity and is constant. While this is a good place to start, the problems are by their nature somewhat limited. Students often know all about uniformly accelerated motion from their physics class.

The Advanced Placement exams take motion problems to a new level. AB students often encounter particles moving along the x-axis or the y-axis (i.e. on a number line) according to a function that gives the particle’s position, velocity, or acceleration.  BC students often encounter particles moving around the plane with their coordinates given by parametric equations or their velocity given by a vector. Other times the information is given as a graph or even in a table of the position or velocity. The “particle” may become a car, or a rocket or even chief readers riding bicycles.

While these situations may not be all that “real”, they provide excellent ways to ask both differentiation and integration questions. but be aware that they are not covered that much in some textbooks; supplementing the text may be necessary.

The main derivative ideas are that velocity is the first derivative of the position function, acceleration is the second derivative of the position function and the first derivative of the velocity. Speed is the absolute value of velocity. (There will be more about speed in the next post.) The same techniques used to find the features of a graph can be applied to motion problems to determine things about the moving particle.

So, the ideas are not new, but the vocabulary is. The table below gives the terms used with graph analysis and the corresponding terms used in motion problem.

Vocabulary: Working with motion equations (position, velocity, acceleration) you really do all the same things as with regular functions and their derivatives. Help students see that while the vocabulary is different, the concepts are the same.

Function                                Linear Motion
Value of a function at x               position at time t
First derivative                            velocity
Second derivative                       acceleration
Increasing                                   moving to the right or up
Decreasing                                 moving to the left or down
Absolute Maximum                    farthest right
Absolute Minimum                     farthest left
yʹ = 0                                        “at rest”
yʹ changes sign                          object changes direction
Increasing & cc up                     speed is increasing
Increasing & cc down                speed is decreasing
Decreasing & cc up                   speed is decreasing
Decreasing & cc down              speed is increasing
Speed                                       absolute value of velocity
 

Here is a short quiz on this idea.

Revised and updated from a post originally published on November 16, 2012

Unit 4 – Contextual Applications of the Derivative

Unit 4 covers rates of change in motion problems and other contexts, related rate problems, linear approximation, and L’Hospital’s Rule. (CED – 2019 p. 82 – 90). These topics account for about 10 – 15% of questions on the AB exam and 6 – 9% of the BC questions.

You may want to consider teaching Unit 5 (Analytical Applications of Differentiation) before Unit 4. Notes on Unit 5 will be posted next Tuesday September 29, 2020

Topics 4.1 – 4.6

Topic 4.1 Interpreting the Meaning of the Derivative in Context Students learn the meaning of the derivative in situations involving rates of change.

Topic 4.2 Linear Motion The connections between position, velocity, speed, and acceleration. This topic may work  better after the graphing problems in Unit 5, since many of the ideas are the same. See Motion Problems: Same Thing, Different Context

Topic 4.3 Rates of Change in Contexts Other Than Motion Other applications

Topic 4.4 Introduction to Related Rates Using the Chain Rule

Topic 4.5 Solving Related Rate Problems

Topic 4.6 Approximating Values of a Function Using Local Linearity and Linearization The tangent line approximation

Topic 4.7 Using L’Hospital’s Rule for Determining Limits of Indeterminate Forms. Indeterminate Forms of the type \displaystyle \tfrac{0}{0} and \displaystyle \tfrac{{\pm \infty }}{{\pm \infty }}. (Other forms may be included, but only these two are tested on the AP exams.)

Topic 4.1 and 4.3 are included in the other topics, topic 4.2 may take a few days, Topics 4.4 – 4.5 are challenging for many students and may take 4 – 5 classes, 4.6 and 4.7 two classes each. The suggested time is 10 -11 classes for AB and 6 -7 for BC. of 40 – 50-minute class periods, this includes time for testing etc.

This is a re-post and update of the third in a series of posts from last year. It contains links to posts on this blog about the differentiation of composite, implicit, and inverse functions for your reference in planning. Other updated post on the 2019 CED will come throughout the year, hopefully, a few weeks before you get to the topic. 


Posts on these topics include:

Motion Problems 

Motion Problems: Same Thing, Different Context

Speed

A Note on Speed

Adapting 2021 AB 2

Adapting 2021 AB 4 / BC 4

Related Rates

Related Rate Problems I

Related Rate Problems II

Good Question 9 – Related rates

Linear Approximation

Local Linearity 1

Local Linearity 2 

L’Hospital’s Rule

Locally Linear L’Hôpital  

L’Hôpital Rules the Graph  

Determining the Indeterminate

Determining the Indeterminate 2


Here are links to the full list of posts discussing the ten units in the 2019 Course and Exam Description.

Limits and Continuity – Unit 1  (8-11-2020)

Definition of t he Derivative – Unit 2  (8-25-2020)

Differentiation: Composite, Implicit, and Inverse Function – Unit 3  (9-8-2020)

Contextual Applications of the Derivative – Unit 4  Consider teaching Unit 5 before Unit 4 THIS POST

LAST YEAR’S POSTS – These will be updated in coming weeks

2019 – CED Unit 5 Analytical Applications of Differentiation  Consider teaching Unit 5 before Unit 4

2019 – CED Unit 6 Integration and Accumulation of Change

2019 – CED Unit 7 Differential Equations  Consider teaching after Unit 8

2019 – CED Unit 8 Applications of Integration   Consider teaching after Unit 6, before Unit 7

2019 – CED Unit 9 Parametric Equations, Polar Coordinates, and Vector-Values Functions 

2019 CED Unit 10 Infinite Sequences and Series



Adapting 2021 BC 2

Seven of nine. This week we continue our look at the 2021 free-response questions with an eye to ways to adapt and expand the questions. Hopefully, you will find ways to use this and other free-response questions to help your students learn more and be better prepared for the exams.

2021 BC 2

This is a Parametric and Vector Equation (Type 8) question and contains topic from Unit 9 of the current Course and Exam Description. The vector equation of the velocity of a particle moving in the xy-plane is given along with the position of the particle at t = 0. No units were given.

The stem for 2021 BC 2 is next. (Note the \displaystyle \left\langle \text{ } \right\rangle notation for vectors. Any of the usual notations may be used by students, but be sure to show them the others in case the one their book usage is different than the exam’s.)

Part (a): Students were asked to find the speed and acceleration of the particle at t = 1.2. This is a calculator active questions and the students were expected, but not actually required, to use their calculator. With their calculator in parametric mode, students should begin by entering the velocity as xt1(t) and yt1(t).

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • There is little I can suggest here other than changing the time.
  • At the given time and other times, you can ask in what direction is the particle moving and which way the acceleration is pulling the velocity.
  • Ask student to do this without using their calculator. The answer need not be simplified or expressed as a decimal.

Part (b): Asked the students to find the total distance traveled by the particle over a given the time interval. This must be done on a calculator. Be sure your students know how to enter the expression using the already entered values for xt1(t) and yt1(t). The calculator entry should look like this.

\displaystyle \int_{0}^{{1.2}}{{\sqrt{{{{{\left( {\text{xt}1(t)} \right)}}^{2}}+{{{\left( {\text{yt1}(t)} \right)}}^{2}}}}}}dt

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • Use different intervals.
  • Discuss the similarities with the number line distance formula. In linear motion, the distance is simply the integral of the absolute value of the velocity. Since \displaystyle \int_{a}^{b}{{\left| {v\left( t \right)} \right|}}dt=\int_{a}^{b}{{\sqrt{{{{{\left( {v(t)} \right)}}^{2}}}}}}dt, this is the same formula reduced to one dimension.

Part (c): The situation is reduced to a one-dimensional problem: students were asked to find the coordinates of the point at which the particle is farthest left and explain why there is no point farthest to the right.

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • Discuss how to do this and how students should present their answer and explanation.
  • Show that this is the same as an extreme value problem and done the same way (i.e., find where the derivative is zero, and show that this is a minimum (farthest left), etc.).
  • Discuss how you know there is no maximum and interpret this in the context of the equation.

For further exploration. Try graphing the path of the particle. Discuss how to do that with your class. See what they suggest. Here a few approaches.

  • The first thought may be to integrate the velocity vector as an initial value problem. Unfortunately, this cannot be done. Neither the x-component nor the y-component can be integrated in terms of Elementary Functions. Even WolframAlpha.com is no help.
  • Having entered the velocity vector as xt1(t) and yt1(t), as suggested above, enter something like this depending on your calculator’s syntax and then graph in a suitable window. Compare the graph with the previous analysis in part (c)?

\displaystyle \text{x2t}(t)=-2+\int_{0}^{t}{{\text{x1t}(t)dt}}

\displaystyle \text{y2t}(t)=5+\int_{0}^{t}{{\text{y2t}(t)dt}}

  • You may also try expressing the components of velocity as a Taylor series centered at some positive number, a, not at zero. Integrate that to get an approximation to graph. Be sure to adjust things so the initial point is on the graph. WolframAlpha will help here. The one problem here is that the y-component is not defined for negative numbers. Therefore, zero cannt be then center and the largest the interval of convergence can be is [0, 2a] (Why?) and may not even by that large. This is an interesting approach mathematically but will not help with most of the graph.

Personal opinion: I do not think much of this question because all the first two parts require is entering the formula in your calculator and computing the answer, and the third part is really an AB level question. Just my opinion.


Seven of Nine

Next week 2021 BC 5

I would be happy to hear your ideas for other ways to use this question. Please use the reply box below to share your ideas.


Adapting 2021 AB 6

Six of nine. Continuing the current series of posts, this post looks at the AB Calculus 2021 exam question AB 6. Like most of the AP Exam questions, there is a lot more you can ask based on the stem of this question and a lot of other calculus you can discuss. This series of post offers suggestions as to how to adapt, expand, and use this question to help your students dig deeper and learn more.

2021 AB 6

This is a standard Differential Equation (Type 6) question and contains topics mainly from Unit 7 (Differential equations) and a little from Unit 3 (implicit differentiation) of the current Course and Exam Description. A differential equation with an initial condition is given in a context. The main part is the solution of the initial value question with three short other questions included.

The stem for 2021 AB 6 is:

Part (a): A slope field in the first quadrant with no scale on either axis is given. Students are asked to sketch the solution curve starting at the initial condition, the point (0, 0).  (I prefer this kind of slope field question to those where students are given a few points and asked to sketch the slope field through them. No one draws slope field by hand; slope field drawn by computers are used to study the approximate shape of the solution and determine its interesting properties as is done here and in part (b)). When drawing slope fields, the sketch should extend to from one border to another and contain the initial condition point.

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • Have student sketch solution through one or more different points. Copy the slope field and add the initial condition point somewhere else.
  • Add an initial point above the horizontal asymptote.
  • Compare and contrast the solutions drawn through several points.
  • Ask what the horizontal segments (at y = 12) tells you in the context of the problem.

Part (b):  Students are given the limit at infinity for the as yet unknow solution and asked to interpret it in the context of the problem including units of measure.

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • Discuss why this is so.
  • Discuss how to determine the units of the function from the given information.
  • Discuss how to determine the units of the derivative from the given information.
  • Discuss how to determine the units of the derivative from the units of the function.
  • Discuss how to determine the units of the function from the units of the derivative.
  • Discuss whether the interpretation of the limit makes sense in the context of the question.

Part (c): Students are asked to solve the initial value question using the method of separation of variables.

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • Since separation of variables is the only method for solving a differential equation that students are responsible for knowing, there is not much you can do to adapt or change this question.
  • The initial condition may be substituted immediately after the integration is done the “+ C” is attached, or it may be done later after the expression is solved for y. Show students both method and discuss which is more efficient and which makes more sense to them.
  • Removing the absolute value signs is another place that may confuse students. While some textbooks suggest using a “ ± “ sign and deciding sign which to use later, the better way is to decide as soon as possible. Ask yourself is the expression enclose by the absolute value signs positive or negative near (at) the initial value. If positive, then the absolute value is replaced by the same expression (as in this question); if negative, then the expression is replaced by its opposite. Then complete the question from there.

Part (d): This part needs careful reading. Students are asked, for a slightly different differential equation, if the rate of change in the amount of medicine is increasing or decreasing at a given time. Therefore, students must find the rate of change of the rate of change (the given derivative): the derivative of the derivative (i.e., the second derivative of the function). This requires implicit differentiation of the derivative using the quotient rule.

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • The second derivative has the first derivative as one of its factors. Students may (automatically) substitute the first derivative before simplifying or evaluating. This correct, but unnecessarily long. Show the students how to find and substitute the value of the first derivative along with the other numbers.
  • Do as little arithmetic as possible. You need only determine if the second derivative is positive or negative.
  • Discuss the meaning of the answer in the context of the problem.

Next week 2021 BC 2

I would be happy to hear your ideas for other ways to use this question. Please use the reply box below to share your ideas.



Adapting 2021 AB 5

Five of nine. Continuing the current series of posts, this post looks at the AB Calculus 2021 exam question AB 5. The series considers each question with the aim of showing ways to use the question in with your class as is, or by adapting and expanding it.  Like most of the AP Exam questions there is a lot more you can ask from the stem and a lot of other calculus you can discuss.

2021 AB 5

This question tests the process of differentiating an implicit function. In my scheme of type posts, it is in the Other Problems (Type 7) category; this type includes the topics of implicit functions, related rate problems, families of functions and a few others. This topic is in Unit 3 of the current Course and Exam Description. Every few exams one of these appears on the exams, but not often enough to be made into its own type.

The question does not lend itself to changes that emphasize the same concepts. Some of the suggestions below are for exploration beyond what is likely to be tested on the AP Exams.

Here is the stem, only one line long:

Part (a): Students were given dy/dx and asked to verify that the expression is correct. This is done so that a student who makes a mistake (or cannot find the derivative at all) will not be shut out of the rest of the question by not having the correct first derivative.

While not required for the exam, you could use a grapher in implicit mode to graph the relation. Without the y > 0 restriction the graph consists of two seemingly parallel graphs similar to a sine graph. They are not sine graphs.

Ideas for exploring this question:

  • Using a graphing utility that allows you to use sliders. Replace the -6 by a variable that will allow you to see all the members of this family using a slider.
  • If the slider value is between -1/8 and 0 the graph no longer looks the same. Explore with this.
  • If the slider value is < -1/8 there is no graph. Why?
  • Explain why these are not sine graphs. (Hint: Use the quadratic formula to solve for y):

\displaystyle y=\frac{{\sin (x)\pm \sqrt{{{{{(\sin (x))}}^{2}}+48}}}}{4}.

 Part (a): There is not much you can change in this part. Ask for the derivative of a different implicit relation. You may use other questions of this type. Good Question 17, 2004 AB 4, 2016 BC 4 (parts a, b, and c are suitable for AB).

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • Ask for the first derivative without showing student the answer.
  • Find the derivative from the expression when first solved for y. Show that this is equal to the given derivative.

Part (b): An easy, but important question: write the equation of the tangent line at a given point. Writing the equation of a line shows up somewhere on the exam every year. As always, use the point-slope form.

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • Use a different point.

Part (c): Students were asked to find the point in a specific interval where the tangent line is horizontal.

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • By enlarging the domain find other points where the tangent line is horizontal. (Not likely to be asked on the exam, but good exercise.)
  • Using y < 0 find where the tangent line is horizontal. (Not likely to be asked on the exam, but good exercise.)
  • Determine if the two parts of the graph are “parallel.”
  • Determine if the two parts of the graph are congruent to y=\tfrac{1}{4}\sin \left( x \right).

Part (d): Students were asked to determine if the point found in the previous part was a relative maximum, minimum or neither, and to justify their answer.  

Discussion and ideas for adapting this question:

  • Have students justify using the Candidates’ test (closed interval test).
  • Have students justify using the first derivative test.
  • Have students justify using the second derivative test.
  • Ask the same question for the branch with y < 0.

Having students justify local extreme values by all three methods is good practice any time there is a justification required. Depending on the problem, it may not be possible to use all three. Discuss why; discuss how to decide which is the most efficient for each problem.


Next week 2021 AB 6.

I would be happy to hear your ideas for other ways to use this question. Please use the reply box below to share your ideas.