Unit 10 – Infinite Sequences and Series

Unit 10 covers sequences and series. These are BC only topics (CED – 2019 p. 177 – 197). These topics account for about 17 – 18% of questions on the BC exam.

Topic 10.1: Defining Convergent and Divergent Series.

Topic 10. 2: Working with Geometric Series. Including the formula for the sum of a convergent geometric series.

Topics 10.3 – 10.9 Convergence Tests

The tests listed below are assessed on the BC Calculus exam. Other methods are not tested. However, teachers may include additional methods.

Topic 10.3: The nth Term Test for Divergence.

Topic 10.4: Integral Test for Convergence. See Good Question 14

Topic 10.5: Harmonic Series and p-Series. Harmonic series and alternating harmonic series, p-series.

Topic 10.6: Comparison Tests for Convergence. Comparison test and the Limit Comparison Test

Topic 10.7: Alternating Series Test for Convergence.

Topic 10.8: Ratio Test for Convergence.

Topic 10.9: Determining Absolute and Conditional Convergence. Absolute convergence implies conditional convergence.

Topics 10.10 – 10.12 Taylor Series and Error Bounds

Topic 10.10: Alternating Series Error Bound.

Topic 10.11: Finding Taylor Polynomial Approximations of a Function.

Topic 10.12: Lagrange Error Bound.

Topics 10.13 – 10.15 Power Series

Topic 10.13: Radius and Interval of Convergence of a Power Series. The Ratio Test is used almost exclusively to find the radius of convergence. Term-by-term differentiation and integration of a power series gives a series with the same center and radius of convergence. The interval may be different at the endpoints.

Topic 10.14: Finding the Taylor and Maclaurin Series of a Function. Students should memorize the Maclaurin series for \displaystyle \frac{1}{{1-x}}, sin(x), cos(x), and ex.

Topic 10.15: Representing Functions as Power Series. Finding the power series of a function by differentiation, integration, algebraic processes, substitution, or properties of geometric series.


The suggested time for Unit 9 is about 17 – 18 BC classes of 40 – 50-minutes, this includes time for testing etc.

Previous posts on these topics:

Before sequences

Amortization Using finite series to find your mortgage payment. (Suitable for pre-calculus as well as calculus)

A Lesson on Sequences.  An investigation, which could be used as early as Algebra 1, showing how irrational numbers are the limit of a sequence of approximations. Also, an introduction to the Completeness Axiom. 

Everyday Series

Convergence Tests

Reference Chart

Which Convergence Test Should I Use? Part 1: Pretty much anyone you want!

Which Convergence Test Should I Use? Part 2: Specific hints and a discussion of the usefulness of absolute convergence

Good Question 14 on the Integral Test

Sequences and Series

Graphing Taylor Polynomials.  Graphing calculator hints

Introducing Power Series 1

Introducing Power Series 2

Introducing Power Series 3

New Series from Old 1: Substitution (Be sure to look at example 3)

New Series from Old 2: Differentiation

New Series from Old 3: Series for rational functions using long division and geometric series

Geometric Series – Far Out: An instructive “mistake.”

A Curiosity: An unusual Maclaurin Series

Synthetic Summer Fun Synthetic division and calculus including finding the (finite)Taylor series of a polynomial.

Adapting 2021 BC 5

Adapting 2021 BC 6

Error Bounds

Error Bounds: Error bounds in general and the alternating Series error bound, and the Lagrange error bound

The Lagrange Highway: The Lagrange error bound. 

What’s the “Best” Error Bound?

Review Notes

Type 10: Sequences and Series Questions


Unit 9 – Parametric Equations, Polar Coordinates, and Vector-Valued Functions

Unit 9 includes all the topics listed in the title. These are BC only topics (CED – 2019 p. 163 – 176). These topics account for about 11 – 12% of questions on the BC exam.

Comments on Prerequisites: In BC Calculus the work with parametric, vector, and polar equations is somewhat limited. I always hoped that students had studied these topics in detail in their precalculus classes and had more precalculus knowledge and experience with them than is required for the BC exam. This will help them in calculus, so see that they are included in your precalculus classes.

Topics 9.1 – 9.3 Parametric Equations

Topic 9.1: Defining and Differentiation Parametric Equations. Finding dy/dx in terms of dy/dt and dx/dt

Topic 9.2: Second Derivatives of Parametric Equations. Finding the second derivative. See Implicit Differentiation of Parametric Equations this discusses the second derivative.

Topic 9.3: Finding Arc Lengths of Curves Given by Parametric Equations. 

Topics 9.4 – 9.6 Vector-Valued Functions and Motion in the plane

Topic 9.4 : Defining and Differentiating Vector-Valued Functions. Finding the second derivative. See this A Vector’s Derivatives which includes a note on second derivatives. 

Topic 9.5: Integrating Vector-Valued Functions

Topic 9.6: Solving Motion Problems Using Parametric and Vector-Valued Functions. Position, Velocity, acceleration, speed, total distance traveled, and displacement extended to motion in the plane. 

Topics 9.7 – 9.9 Polar Equation and Area in Polar Form.

Topic 9.7: Defining Polar Coordinate and Differentiation in Polar Form. The derivatives and their meaning.

Topic 9.8: Find the Area of a Polar Region or the Area Bounded by a Single Polar Curve

Topic 9.9: Finding the Area of the Region Bounded by Two Polar Curves. Students should know how to find the intersections of polar curves to use for the limits of integration. 


The suggested time for Unit 9 is about 10 – 11 BC classes of 40 – 50-minutes, this includes time for testing etc.

Previous posts on these topics:

Parametric and Vector Equations

Implicit Differentiation of Parametric Equations

A Vector’s Derivatives

Adapting 2012 BC 2 (A parametric equation question)

Polar Curves

Polar Equations for AP Calculus

Extreme Polar Conditions

Visualizing Unit 9 Desmos Demonstrations for Polar, Vector and Parametric Curves

Extreme Average

A recent post on the AP Calculus bulletin board observed that the maximum value of the average value of a function on an interval occurred at the point where the graph of the average value and the function intersect. I am not sure if this concept is important in and of itself, but it does make an interesting exercise.

For a function f(x), we may treat its average value as a function, A(x), defined for all x ∈ [a, b], interval [a, x] as

\displaystyle A\left( x \right)=\left\{ {\begin{array}{*{20}{c}} {\tfrac{1}{{x-a}}\int_{a}^{x}{{f\left( t \right)dt}}} & {x\ne a} \\ {f\left( a \right)} & {x=a} \end{array}} \right.

Graphically, the segment drawn at y = A(x) is such that the regions between the line and the function above and below the segment have equal areas. See figure 1 in which the red curve is the function, and the blue curve is the average value function. The two shaded regions have the same area.

Figure 1: The shaded regions have the same area.

Regardless of the starting value, the function and its average value start at the same value. If the function is increasing the average value is less than the function and increasing. When the function starts to decrease, the average value will continue to increase for a while. When the two graphs nest intersect, the process starts over, and the average value will now start to decrease. Therefore, the intersection value is when the average value function change from increasing to decreasing and this is its (local) maximum value. See Figure 2.

Figure 2:The maximum value of A(x) is at the intersection of the two graphs

This continues until the graphs intersect again after the function starts to increase: a (local) minimum value of the average value function. The process continues with the extreme values of the average value function (blue graph) occurring at its intersections with the function. Figure 3

Figure 3: A(x) has its extreme values where it intersects the function.

This can be proved by finding the extreme values of the average value function by considering its derivative. Begin by finding its derivative using the product rule (or quotient rule) and the FTC.

\displaystyle {A}'\left( x \right)=\tfrac{1}{{x-a}}f\left( x \right)+\left( {-\tfrac{1}{{{{{\left( {x-a} \right)}}^{2}}}}} \right)\int_{a}^{x}{{f\left( t \right)dt}}

\displaystyle {A}'\left( x \right)=\tfrac{1}{{x-a}}f\left( x \right)-\tfrac{1}{{x-a}}\left( {\tfrac{1}{{x-a}}\int_{a}^{x}{{f\left( t \right)dt}}} \right)

\displaystyle {A}'\left( x \right)=\tfrac{1}{{x-a}}\left( {f\left( x \right)-A\left( x \right)} \right)

The critical points of a(x) occur when its derivative is equal to zero (or undefined). This is when f\left( x \right)=A\left( x \right) (or when x = a, the endpoint). This is where the graphs intersect.

How to use this in your class

This is not a concept that is likely to be tested on the AP Calculus Exams. Nevertheless, it is an easy enough idea to explore when teaching the average value of a function and at the same time reviewing some earlier concepts such as product (or quotient) rule, the FTC (differentiating an integral), and some non-ordinary simplification.

You could have your students use their own favorite function and show that the extreme values of its average value occur where the average value intersects the function. This is good practice in equation solving on a calculator since the points do not occur at “nice” numbers. Here’s an example.

If \displaystyle f\left( x \right)=\sin \left( x \right), then its average value on the interval \displaystyle [0,\infty ) is

\displaystyle  A\left( x \right)=\tfrac{1}{x}\int_{0}^{x}{{\sin \left( t \right)dt}}=\frac{{-\cos \left( x \right)+1}}{x}.

The intersections of f(x) and A(x) can be found by solving

\displaystyle\sin \left( x \right)=\frac{{-\cos \left( x \right)+1}}{x}

The extreme values of \displaystyle \frac{{-\cos \left( x \right)+1}}{x} may also be found using a calculator.

The points are the same. the first is approximately (2.331, 0.725) and the second is (6.283, 0) or (2π, 0). This second is reasonable since at 2π the sine function has completed one period and its average value zero. (See figure 3 again.).

Other questions you could ask (for my function anyway) are what is the absolute maximum and how can you be sure? Why are all the minimums zero?

The message on the AP Calculus discussion boards that inspired this post was started by Neema Salimi an AP Calculus teacher from Georgia. He made the original observation. You can read his original post and proof, and comments by others here.

The Rule of Four

Not much has been heard of the Rule of Four lately. The Rule of Four suggests that mathematical concepts should be looked at graphically, numerically, analytically, and verbally. It has not gone away. The Rule of Four has a new name: multiple representations. (In the latest Course and Exam Description, you will find it in Mathematical Practices (p. 14), specifically practices 2.B, 2.C, 2.D, 2.E, 3.E, 3.F, 4.A, and 4.C)

I have used the Rule of Four in this post. The post started with a verbal discussion of the concept and how the result can be seen graphically. That was followed by analytic proof. At the end is a numerical example.  

Other posts on the average value of a function:

Finding the average value of a function on an interval is Topic 8.1 in the Course and Exam Description (p. 149)

Average Value of a Function – or How do you average an infinite number of numbers?

Most Triangles Are Obtuse! An obvious observation, but here’s how to figure the exact proportion of obtuse to acute triangles.

Half-full or Half-empty Visualizing the average value of a function

What’s a Mean Old Average Anyway? Be sure to distinguish between the average rate of change, the average value of a function, and the mean value theorem.

…but what does it look like?

It will soon be time to teach about finding the volumes of solid figures using integration techniques. Here is a list of links to posts that will help your students what these figures look like and how they are generated.

Visualizing Solid Figures 1 Here are ideas for making physical models of solid figures. These make good projects for students.

A Little Calculus is an iPad app that does an excellent job in helping students visualize many of the concepts of the calculus. Volumes with regular cross section, disk method, washer method, cylindrical shells are all illustrated.

The first illustrations show square cross sections on a semicircular base. The base is in the lower part and the solid in the upper. By using the plus and minus button (lower right) you can increase or decrease the number of sections in real time and see the figures change. The upper figure may be rotated by moving your finger on the screen.

The illustration below shows a washer situation.

The following older posts show how to use Winplot to generate and explore solid figures. Unfortunately, Winplot seems to have gone out of favor. I’m not sure why; it is one of the best. I still use it and like it. You may download Winplot here for free (PC only).

Visualizing Solid Figures 2 This post demonstrates how to use Winplot to generate solids with regular cross sections and solids of rotation.

Visualizing Solid Figures 3 The washer method is illustrated using Winplot. These post all relate to finding volumes by washers: Subtract the Hole from the Whole and Does Simplifying Make Things Simpler?

Visualizing Solid Figures 4 Using Winplot to see the method cylindrical shells. Note that this method is not tested on either the AB or BC Calculus exams, so you do not have to teach it. Many teachers present this topic after the exams are given. As a footnote you may also find Why You Never Need Cylindrical Shells interesting. (However, this is not the reason it is not tested on the AP Calculus exams.)

Visualizing Solid Figures 5 An exercise demonstrating how “half” can mean different things and shows that how the figures are generated makes a difference.

Unit 7 – Differential Equations

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(a))} \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}}=kt with the initial condition \displaystyle \left( {0,y\left( 0 \right)} \right) has the solution \displaystyle y=y\left( 0 \right){{e}^{{kt}}}

Topic 7.9 Logistic Models with Differential Equations (BC ONLY) The model of logistic growth, \displaystyle \frac{{dy}}{{dx}}=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 Equations An 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

Adapting 2021 AB 6

Adapting 2021 BC 5

Posts on Accumulation

One of the main uses of the definite integral is summed up (pun intended) in the idea of accumulation. When you integrate a rate of change you get the (net) amount of change. This important idea is often treated very lightly, if at all, in textbooks.

Here are a series of past posts that use, explain, and illustrate that concept.

Accumulation – Need an Amount? The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus says that the integral of a rate of change (a derivative) is the net amount of change. This post shows how that works in practice.

AP Accumulation Questions and Good Question 7 – 2009 AB 3 the “Mighty Cable Company” show how accumulation is tested on the AP Calculus exams. The “Mighty Cable Company” question is a particularly good and difficult example.

The next two posts show how to use the concept of accumulation to analyze a function and its graph without reference to the derivative. The graphical idea of a Riemann sum rectangle moving across the interval of integration makes the features of function much more intuitive than the common approach. You will not find these ideas in textbooks. Nevertheless, a lesson on this idea may help your students.

Graphing with Accumulation 1 explains how to analyze the derivative to determine when a function is increasing or decreasing and finding the locations of extreme values. By thinking of the individual Rieman sum rectangles moving across the interval the features of the function are easy to see and easier to remember. Once understood, this method will help students with their graph analysis work.

Graphing with Accumulation 2 continues the idea of using accumulation to determine information about the concavity of a function.

Unit 8 – Applications of Integration

I haven’t missed Unit 7! This unit seems to fit more logically after the opening unit on integration (Unit 6). The Course and Exam Description (CED) places Unit 7 Differential Equations before Unit 8 probably because the previous unit ended with techniques of antidifferentiation. My guess is that many teachers will teach Unit 8: Applications of Integration immediately after Unit 6 and before Unit 7: Differential Equations. The order is up to you. Unit 7 will post next Tuesday.

Unit 8 includes some standard problems solvable by integration (CED – 2019 p. 143 – 161). These topics account for about 10 – 15% of questions on the AB exam and 6 – 9% of the BC questions.

Topics 8.1 – 8.3 Average Value and Accumulation

Topic 8.1 Finding the Average Value of a Function on an Interval Be sure to distinguish between average value of a function on an interval, average rate of change on an interval and the mean value

Topic 8.2 Connecting Position, Velocity, and Acceleration of Functions using Integrals Distinguish between displacement (= integral of velocity) and total distance traveled (= integral of speed)

Topic 8. 3 Using Accumulation Functions and Definite Integrals in Applied Contexts The integral of a rate of change equals the net amount of change. A really big idea and one that is tested on all the exams. So, if you are asked for an amount, look around for a rate to integrate.

Topics 8.4 – 8.6 Area

Topic 8.4 Finding the Area Between Curves Expressed as Functions of x

Topic 8.5 Finding the Area Between Curves Expressed as Functions of y

Topic 8.6 Finding the Area Between Curves That Intersect at More Than Two Points Use two or more integrals or integrate the absolute value of the difference of the two functions. The latter is especially useful when do the computation of a graphing calculator.

Topics 8.7 – 8.12 Volume

Topic 8.7 Volumes with Cross Sections: Squares and Rectangles

Topic 8.8 Volumes with Cross Sections: Triangles and Semicircles

Topic 8.9 Volume with Disk Method: Revolving around the x– or y-Axis Volumes of revolution are volumes with circular cross sections, so this continues the previous two topics.

Topic 8.10 Volume with Disk Method: Revolving Around Other Axes

Topic 8.11 Volume with Washer Method: Revolving Around the x– or y-Axis See Subtract the Hole from the Whole for an easier way to remember how to do these problems.

Topic 8.12 Volume with Washer Method: Revolving Around Other Axes. See Subtract the Hole from the Whole for an easier way to remember how to do these problems.

Topic 8.13  Arc Length BC Only

Topic 8.13 The Arc Length of a Smooth, Planar Curve and Distance Traveled  BC ONLY


The suggested time for Unit 8 is  19 – 20 classes for AB and 13 – 14 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:

Average Value and Accumulation

Average Value of a Function and 

Most Triangles Are Obtuse!

Half-full or Half-empty

Accumulation: Need an Amount?

AP Accumulation Questions

Good Question 7 – 2009 AB 3 Accumulation, explain the meaning of an integral in context, unit analysis

Good Question 8 – or Not Unit analysis

Graphing with Accumulation 1 Seeing increasing and decreasing through integration

Graphing with Accumulation 2 Seeing concavity through integration

Adapting AB 1 / BC 1


Area Between Curves

Under is a Long Way Down  Avoiding “negative area.”

Improper Integrals and Proper Areas  BC Topic

Math vs. the “Real World”  Improper integrals  BC Topic

Adapting 2021 AB 3 / BC 3


Volumes of Solids with Regular Cross-sections

Volumes of Revolution

Why You Never Need Cylindrical Shells

Visualizing Solid Figures 1

Visualizing Solid Figures 2

Visualizing Solid Figures 3

Visualizing Solid Figures 4

Visualizing Solid Figures 5

Painting a Point

Subtract the Hole from the Whole and Does Simplifying Make Things Simpler?

Adapting 2021 AB 3 / BC 3

Other Applications of Integrals

Density Functions have been tested in the past, but are not specifically listed on the CED then or now.

Who’d a Thunk It? Some integration problems suitable for graphing calculator solution

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

2019 CED – Unit 1: Limits and Continuity

2019 CED – Unit 2: Differentiation: Definition and Fundamental Properties.

2019 CED – Unit 3: Differentiation: Composite , Implicit, and Inverse Functions

2019 CED – Unit 4 Contextual Applications of the Derivative  Consider teaching Unit 5 before Unit 4

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