Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Tangent to a a curve, something seems wrong (Calculus)

  1. Jun 25, 2015 #1
    I'm studying Calculus and i can see that the definition of the tangent to a point on a curve is

    y= f'(a)(x-a)+b this must mean that

    f'(a) = (y-b)/(x-a)

    But that to me seems troubeling, because f'(a) is the slope at ONE point, while (y-b)/(x-a) is a quotient with the differene between 2 points. Is there a better explanation?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 25, 2015 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    No, that's perfectly correct. However, "f'(a)= (y- b)/(x- a)" requires that x and y be the coordinates of a point on the tangent line, not the curve. A line has the same slope at any point.
  4. Jun 25, 2015 #3


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Comparing this form to y = mx+k, you have f'(a) = m giving you the slope of the tangent at x=a. Your y- intercept of the line is b-f'(a) a, this is assuming that f(a) = b. Essentially, you are tracing back the line along the slope to find the y-intercept.

    (y-b)/(x-a) is 0/0 at (a,b), so might not be the best form to use...although it does give some insight to L'Hopital's rule.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook