Did He, or Didn’t He?

Since it’s soon time to start derivatives, today we look at one way people found maximums and minimums before calculus was invented. Pierre de Fermat (1607 – 1655) was a French lawyer. His hobby, so to speak, was mathematics. He is considered one of the people who built the foundations of calculus. Along with Descartes,…

Optimization – Reflections

First, a new resource has been added to the resource page.  An index of all free-response questions from 1971 – 2018 listed by major topics. These were researched by by Kalpana Kanwar a teacher at Wisconsin Heights High School. Thank you Kalpana! They include precalculus topics that were tested on the exams before 1998. These…

Good Question 10 – The Cone Problem

Today’s good question is an optimization problem, but its real point is choosing how to do the computation. As such it relates to MPAC 3a and 3b: “Students can  … select appropriate mathematical strategies [and] sequence algebraic/computational processes logically.” The algebra required to solve this questions can be quite daunting, unless you get clever. Here’s the…

Curves with Extrema?

We spend a lot of time in calculus studying curves. We look for maximums, minimums, asymptotes, end behavior, and on and on, but what about in “real life”? For some time I’ve been trying to find a real situation determined or modeled by a non-trigonometric curve with more than one extreme value. I’ve not been…

Soda Cans

A typical calculus optimization question asks you to find the dimensions of a cylindrical soda can with a fixed volume that has a minimum surface area (and therefore is cheaper to manufacture). Let r be the radius of the cylinder and h be its height. The volume, V, is constant and . The surface area…