The Tangent Line and the Derivative (Calculus)

In calculus, you’ll often hear “The derivative is the slope of the tangent line.” But what is a tangent line? The definition is trickier than you might think.

Tangent lines are important because they are the best way to approximate a curve using a line. We can then use the slope of the line as a way to measure the “slope” of the curve.

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Written and Produced by Michael Harrison

Michael Harrison received his BS in math from Caltech, and his MS from the University of Washington where he studied algebraic number theory. After teaching math for a few years, Michael worked in finance both as a developer and a quantitative analyst (quant). He then worked at Google as a software engineer for over 5 years before leaving to found Socratica.

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