Partial and Directional Derivatives

This page is a sub-page of our page on Calculus of Several Real Variables.


Other relevant sources of information:

Tangent Planes and how to build them, Serpentine Integral on YouTube

Directional derivative:

Let f:\mathbf{R}^n \rightarrow \mathbf{R} and choose \, e \in \mathbf{R}^n with ||e|| = 1. If the limit

\lim\limits_{\epsilon \rightarrow 0} \dfrac{f(a + \epsilon e) - f(a)}{\epsilon}

exists, this limit is called the directional derivative of the function f at the point a \in \mathbf{R}^n in the direction e \in \mathbf{R}^n , and it is denoted by D_e f(a).

OBS: D_{e_i} f(a) = \frac{\partial }{\partial x_i} f(a).

Interactive simulation of Directional Derivative.

Directional derivative:

Partial derivatives:
The directional derivatives along one of the coordinate axes is called a partial derivative. They can be thought of as measuring the rate of change of a function along the direction of a specific one of its variables, while all the other variables are kept constant:


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