Life and Musings of Ed

Teaching About Derivatives

In Ed Does Math, Math Tutor on 13 January 10 at 4:58 pm

I found this fascinating quote today:

Last semester I stumbled upon an approach for teaching the concept of the derivative, and later the integral, that worked surprisingly well with my students. It stems from a realization I had that much of what students see when they first learn about derivatives has very little to do with understanding what a derivative is. The typical approach to introducing the derivative throws students directly into the trickiest possible case: a smooth nonlinear curve, and we want to calculate the slope of a tangent line to this curve at a point. To do this, we have to bring in a lot of “stuff”: average rates of change, tables of sequences of average rates of change, and in a vague and non-rigorous sort of way the notion of a limit. It’s this “stuff” that confuses students — not because it’s hard, but because maybe it’s not suited for their first contact with the idea of the derivative. Maybe we need to build their intuition, Casting Out Nines, Jan 2010

You should read the whole article.A tangent line on a curveImage via Wikipedia

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