Discussion Week 1: Math Review
February 8, 2008
The level of math necessary for the course will be college algebra (or an equivalent course in algebra).
Knowledge of
calculus can be helpful, but it is not essential for what we will be doing.
However, there is one calculus concept which sometimes comes in handy, and that is the concept of a
tangent line
.
A tangent line measures the slope of a nonlinear equation.
For example, if I had a function that looks like:
Notice, this curve is nonlinear.
I can use the concept of a tangent
line to measure its rate of change.
The tangent line measures
therate of change at a particular point on the curve.
The key thing
to understand is that (in this case) these slopes are decreasing
(they are upward sloping, but as you move further to the right,
the slopes flatten out).
This means that even though the function
is increasing, it is actually increasing at a decreasing rate
.
This
helps describe the intuition between economic concepts such as
diminishing marginal returns
(which we will talk more about
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 Spring '10
 Caltech
 Derivative, Slope

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