Differential Equations (Type 6)

AP Questions Type 6: Differential Equations

Differential equations are tested in the free-response section of the AP exams almost every year. The actual solving of the differential equation is usually the main part of the problem accompanied by a related question such as a slope field or a tangent line approximation. BC students may also be asked to approximate using Euler’s Method. Several parts of the BC questions are often suitable for AB students and contribute to the AB sub-score of the BC exam. This topic may also appear in the multiple-choice sections of the exams. What students should be able to do
  • Find the general solution of a differential equation using the method of separation of variables (this is the only method tested).
  • Find a particular solution using the initial condition to evaluate the constant of integration – initial value problem (IVP).
  • Determine the domain restrictions on the solution of a differential equation. See this post for more on the domain of a differential equation.
  • Understand that proposed solution of a differential equation is a function (not a number) and if it and its derivative are substituted into the given differential equation the resulting equation is true. This may be part of doing the problem even if solving the differential equation is not required (see 2002 BC 5 – parts a, b and d are suitable for AB)
  • Growth-decay problems.
  • Draw a slope field by hand.
  • Sketch a particular solution on a given slope field.
  • Interpret a slope field.
  • Multiple-choice: Given a differential equation, identify is slope field.
  • Multiple-choice: Given a slope field identify its differential equation.
  • Use the given derivative to analyze a function such as finding extreme values
  • For BC only: Use Euler’s Method to approximate a solution.
  • For BC only: use the method of partial fractions to find the antiderivative after separating the variables.
  • For BC only: understand the logistic growth model, its asymptotes, meaning, etc. The exams so far, have never asked students to actually solve a logistic equation IVP
Look at the scoring standards to learn how the solution of the differential equation is scored, and therefore, how students should present their answer. This is usually the one free-response answer with the most points riding on it. Starting in 2016 the scoring has changed slightly. The five points are now distributed this way:
  • one point for separating the variables
  • one point each for finding the antiderivatives
  • one point for including the constant of integration and using the initial condition – that is, for writing “+ C” on the paper with one of the antiderivatives and substituting the initial condition; finding the value of C is included in the “answer point.” (In the older exams one point was earned for writing the +C and another point for using the initial condition.)
  • one point for solving for y: the “answer point”, for the correct answer. This point includes all the algebra and arithmetic in the problem including solving for C.
In the past, the domain of the solution was often included on the scoring standard, but unless it was specifically asked for in the question students did not need to include it. However, the CED. lists “EK 3.5A3 Solutions to differential equations may be subject to domain restrictions.” Perhaps this will be asked in the future. For more on domain restrictions with examples see this post. Shorter questions on this concept appear in the multiple-choice sections. As always, look over as many questions of this kind from past exams as you can find. For some previous posts on differential equations see January 5, 2015, and for post on related subjects see November 26, 2012, January 21, 2013, February 16, 2013 The Differential Equation question covers topics in Unit 7 of the CED.
Free-response examples:
  • 2019 There was no DE question in the free-response. You may assume the topic was tested in the multiple-choice sections.
  • 2017 AB4/BC4,
  • 2016 AB 4, BC 4, (different questions)
  • 2015 AB4/BC4,
  • 2013 BC 5
  • and a favorite Good Question 2 and Good Question 2 Continued
  • 2021 AB 6, BC 5 (b), (c)
  • 2022 AB5 – sketch solution on slope field, tangent line approximation, solve separable equation.
Multiple-choice examples from non-secure exams:
  • 2012 AB 23, 25
  • 2012 BC: 12, 14, 16, 23

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

Differential Equations  A summary of the terms and techniques of differential equations 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.

Previous Posts on BC Only Topics

Euler’s Method Euler’s Method for Making Money The Logistic Equation  Logistic Growth – Real and Simulated


Revised 2/20/2021, March 29, May 14, 2022

Differential Equations (Type 6)

AP  Questions Type 6: Differential Equations

Differential equations are tested almost every year. The actual solving of the differential equation is usually the main part of the problem, but it is accompanied by a related question such as a slope field or a tangent line approximation. BC students may also be asked to approximate using Euler’s Method. Large parts of the BC questions are often suitable for AB students and contribute to the AB sub-score of the BC exam. What students should be able to do

  • Find the general solution of a differential equation using the method of separation of variables (this is the only method tested).
  • Find a particular solution using the initial condition to evaluate the constant of integration – initial value problem (IVP).
  • NEW Determine the domain restrictions on the solution of a differential equation. See this post for more on this. 
  • Understand that proposed solution of a differential equation is a function (not a number) and if it and its derivative are substituted into the given differential equation the resulting equation is true. This may be part of doing the problem even if solving the differential equation is not required (see 2002 BC 5 – parts a, b and d are suitable for AB)
  • Growth-decay problems.
  • Draw a slope field by hand.
  • Sketch a particular solution on a given slope field.
  • Interpret a slope field.
  • Multiple-choice: Given a differential equation, identify is slope field.
  • Multiple-choice: Given a slope field identify its differential equation.
  • Use the given derivative to analyze a function such as finding extreme values
  • For BC only: Use Euler’s Method to approximate a solution.
  • For BC only: use the method of partial fractions to find the antiderivative after separating the variables.
  • For BC only: understand the logistic growth model, its asymptotes, meaning, etc. The exams so far, have never asked students to actually solve a logistic equation IVP

Look at the scoring standards to learn how the solution of the differential equation is scored, and therefore, how students should present their answer. This is usually the one free-response answer with the most points riding on it. Starting in 2016 the scoring has changed slightly. The five points are now distributed this way:

  • one point for separating the variables
  • one point each for finding the antiderivatives
  • one point for including the constant of integration and using the initial condition – that is, for writing “+ C” on the paper with one of the antiderivatives and substituting the initial condition; finding the value of C is included in the “answer point.” and
  • one point for solving for y: the “answer point”, for the correct answer. This point includes all the algebra and arithmetic in the problem including solving for C..

In the past, the domain of the solution is often included on the scoring standard, but unless it is specifically asked for in the question students do not need to include it. However, the 9 CED. lists “EK 3.5A3 Solutions to differential equations may be subject to domain restrictions.” Perhaps this will be asked in the future. For more on domain restrictions with examples see this post. Shorter questions on this concept appear in the multiple-choice sections. As always, look over as many questions of this kind from past exams as you can find. For some previous posts on differential equations see January 5, 2015 and for post on related subjects see November 26, 2012,  January 21, 2013 February 16, 2013 The Differential Equation question covers topics in Unit 7 of the 2019 CED.


Free-response examples:

  • 2019 There was no DE question in the free-response. You may assume the topic was tested in the multiple-choice sections.
  • 2017 AB4/BC4,
  • 2016 AB 4, BC 4, (different questions)
  • 2015 AB4/BC4,
  • 2013 BC 5
  • and a favorite  Good Question 2 and Good Question 2 Continued

Multiple-choice examples from non-secure exams:

  • 2012 AB 23, 25
  • 2012 BC: 12, 14, 16, 23

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.

Previous Posts on BC Only Topics

Euler’s Method

Euler’s Method for Making Money

The Logistic Equation 

Logistic Growth – Real and Simulated

 


 

 

 

 

Revised 2/20/2021


 

2019 CED Unit 7: Differential Equations

Applications (Unit 8) seem to fit more logically after the opening unit on integration (Unit 6). The Course and Exam Description (CED) present differential equations first probably because the previous unit ended with techniques of antidifferentiation. My guess is that many teachers will teach Unit 8: Applications of Integration before Unit 7: Differential Equations. Therefore, for those who want to present unit 8 first, I will post unit 8 next week on December 3, 2019. That way you’ll have both for reference and can choose the order you think will work best for your students. 

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 function and its derivatives.

Topic 7.2 Verifying Solutions for Differential Equations A proposed solution to 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.


Timing

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 about differential equations 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


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


Posts on Differential Equations – 2

More posts on differential equations

Good Question 2 (2002 BC 5) and A Family of Function (Good Question 2 continued) – one of my all-time favorite AP exam questions. Parts a, c, and d are suitable for AB students. Part b is a Euler’s method question. Part d is an example of a question where the second derivative test is the only approach possible.

Accumulation and Differential Equations  and Why Muss with the “+C”?

Euler’s method for Making Money an application

The Logistic Equation  – a BC only topic

Logistic Growth – Real and Simulated  – a BC only topic

Logarithms  Defining logarithms with a differential equation


 

 

 

 


 

NCTM Calculus Panel Notes

This past week I attended the NCTM Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. For many years now, the sessions included a panel discussion on AP Calculus. This year Stephen Davis, chief reader for AP Calculus, was the principal speaker. I would like to share a few of his comments and insights some of which may help your students on the upcoming exams.

One of the things I recommend in preparing your students for the exam is to go over the directions to both parts of the exam. You should especially explain the three-decimal place rule and the (non-) simplification policy.

This year there will be a slight change in the free-response directions. This change is not a policy change; the change in the wording was made to emphasize what has been the policy for some years. Here is the new wording of the first bullet of the free-response directions with the changes underlined:

Show all your work, even though a question may not explicitly remind you to do so. Clearly label any functions graphs, tables, or other objects that you use. Justifications require that you give mathematical reasons, and that you verify the needed conditions under which relevant theorems, properties, definitions, or tests are applied. Your work will be scored on the correctness and completeness of your methods as well as your answers. Answers without supporting work will usually not receive credit.

For an example of the first underlining sentence, consider 2016 AB 2. This is a linear motion (Type 2) question. Part (a) asks “At time t = 4, is the particle speeding up or slowing down?” According to the scoring standards, two points could be earned for “conclusion with reason.” This means that a correct conclusion of “slowing down” received no credit, because no work was shown. Correct work includes the computation of the velocity and acceleration at t = 4 and indication they since they have different signs the particle is slowing down.

In the same exam, 2016 BC 4 (c) illustrates the second underlined sentence above. This was a L’Hôpital’s Rule question. Just writing

\displaystyle \underset{x\to -1}{\mathop{\lim }}\,\left( \frac{g\left( x \right)-2}{3{{\left( x+1 \right)}^{2}}} \right)=\underset{x\to -1}{\mathop{\lim }}\,\left( \frac{{g}'\left( x \right)}{6\left( x+1 \right)} \right)=-\frac{1}{3}

does not earn the point. Students must indicate that they are using L’Hôpital’s Rule preferably by stating that the limits of the numerators and denominators at each stage are zero.

Another example from 2016 AB 3/BC 3 (Type 3): This problem showed the graph of a function f and asked about the function g defined as g\left( x \right)=\int_{2}^{x}{f\left( t \right)dt}. Students were required to specifically state that {g}'\left( x \right)=f\left( x \right) somewhere, somehow, in some part of the question, showing that they understood the relationship implied by the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.


People started asking questions of the kind they ask on the AP Calculus Community Bulletin Board. They are “what if” questions: What if a student forgets the dx?  What if the student gives open intervals and they should be closed? What if they use the x as the upper limit of integration and in the integrand? What if …? What if …?

Here is a comment I wrote a few days ago for the Community Bulletin board that Stephen was kind enough to mention:

I am sure you teach your students to do the problems correctly, use proper notation, and, even though this is not an English exam, to spell things correctly. You may deduct points in your class for failing to do any of that, or constantly remind them.

As others have pointed out, the readers do their best to give kids the credit they earn and there are not enough points to go around for some mistakes. The procedures for dx and missing parentheses etc. are not something you even need to tell or even mention to your students. Why would you? In scoring the mock exams take off when they make these mistakes. The mock exams should be a little harder than the real thing – that will only help the kids.

To answer your question: students will get full credit on the exams if they do everything right, and sometimes with a little less than everything right. Don’t show your students the minimum they can get away with. They don’t need to know that and it does not help them.

The exceptions are the algebraic and numerical simplifying rules and the three or more-decimal place rule.


A Logistics Graph???

Stephen included slide above in his presentation. It shows the growth in the number of students taking the AP Calculus exams since they first stared in 1956. The AB/BC split first happened in 1969. For years, we have been looking at what looked like exponential growth knowing this wasn’t possible. This kind of growth surely must be logistic since there is an upper limit to the number of students who could take the exam, namely the number of kids in high school.

So, have we reached the point where the numbers start to level off? Or is this just a slight pause such as happened around 1989 and again around 1995? Stay tuned.


 

 

 

 

Logistic Growth – Real and Simulated

The logistic growth model describes situation where the growth of some population is proportional to the number present at any time and the difference between that amount and some limiting value called the “carrying capacity.”

The standard example is this: a small group of rabbits is placed on an island. The population will grow rapidly at first (like exponential growth), but eventually will level off when the food source cannot sustain any more rabbits; the island cannot ‘carry” a larger population.Before going on, ask your students to sketch a graph that shows what this model looks like.

Other things follow the same model. The spread of a disease is one, as is the cumulative sales of almost any new product.

The first graph below shows the cumulative sales of several video games. Each graph shows a typical logistic growth shape: sort of an elongated S. The sales begin rapidly and then level off near their carrying capacity.

logistic-2

                                (Source vgchatz.com)

The second graph has information on cumulative iPad sales. 
logistic-1

(Source: The Daily Mail.com)

The top graph is the actual cumulative iPad sales. It shows a typical logistic growth shape. The smooth graph is a copy of Steve Jobs’ estimate of cumulative sales before the iPads went on sale. He clearly anticipated the logistic growth, but the actual sales ran ahead of his expectations. Both graphs seem to be headed for the same carrying capacity. The quarterly sales are graphed as a histogram at the bottom. In calculus terms, the cumulative sales graph is the integral of the quarterly sales – the accumulation of the total sales over time.

Jobs was criticized for using the graph to hide decreasing quarterly sales estimates on the right side of the graph; sales decrease, but the cumulative number keeps rising. The criticism is correct, but is not proof of any ulterior motivation by Jobs. The growth of any new product can be expected to show such a graph and sales will certainly drop after everyone who needs/wants/can’t-live-without the product has one.

Here is another recent graph.

 

Simulation

Here is a way to demonstrate logistic growth in your class.

A disease is introduced into a population of people (your class). At first only one person has the disease. Then it spreads in proportion to the product of the number of people who have it and the number who do not have it. Once a person has it, they are immune and cannot get it again.

  1. Assign everyone in the class a number 1, 2, … N. (This works best for N > 20)
  2. Use the calculator’s random number generator to produce an integer from 1 to N.
  3. When a person’s number comes up, that person is “sick” and stands. (Of course if they’re sick maybe they should sit.)
  4. Then continue, in each round generate as many random numbers as people standing. Those whose numbers appear for the first time stand.
  5. Record the round number and the number of persons standing (i.e. “sick”). Graph the number standing after each round.

Here are the results with a group of 30 people:

Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Standing 1 2 3 6 11 19 22 24 28 28 28 29 29 29 30

Plot the data in a suitable windowlogistic-3

(From Teaching Calculus,3rd edition)

Notice the very typical S-shape of the graph, the fast initial growth, and the leveling off at the end.


Look for more on the logistic equation next week.


Coming soon:

  • Jan 31st, The Logistic Equation
  • Feb 7th, Graphing Taylor Polynomials
  • Feb 14th,  Geometric Series – Far Out

Lab-confirmed flu hospitalizations  added 3-5-2018