14.5 The Chain Rule

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14.5 The Chain Rule


The Chain Rule

We know that the Chain Rule for functions of a single variable gives the rule for differentiating a composite function: If y = f(x) and x = g(t), where f and g are

differentiable functions, then y is indirectly a differentiable function of t and

For functions of more than one variable, the Chain Rule has several versions, each of them giving a rule for

differentiating a composite function.


The Chain Rule

The first version (Theorem 2) deals with the case where z = f(x, y) and each of the variables x and y is, in turn, a

function of a variable t.

This means that z is indirectly a function of t,

z = f(g(t), h(t)), and the Chain Rule gives a formula for differentiating z as a function of t. We assume that f is differentiable.


The Chain Rule

We know that this is the case when fx and fy are continuous.

Since we often write ∂z/∂x in place of ∂f/∂x, we can rewrite the Chain Rule in the form


Example 1

If z = x2y + 3xy4, where x = sin 2t and y = cos t, find dz/dt when t = 0.


The Chain Rule gives

It’s not necessary to substitute the expressions for x and y in terms of t.


Example 1 – Solution

We simply observe that when t = 0, we have x = sin 0 = 0 and y = cos 0 = 1.




The Chain Rule

We now consider the situation where z = f(x, y) but each of x and y is a function of two variables s and t:

x = g(s, t), y = h(s, t).

Then z is indirectly a function of s and t and we wish to find

∂z/∂s and ∂z/∂t.

We know that in computing ∂z/∂t we hold s fixed and compute the ordinary derivative of z with respect to t.

Therefore we can apply Theorem 2 to obtain


The Chain Rule

A similar argument holds for ∂z/∂s and so we have proved the following version of the Chain Rule.

Case 2 of the Chain Rule contains three types of variables:

s and t are independent variables, x and y are called intermediate variables, and z is the dependent variable.


The Chain Rule

Notice that Theorem 3 has one term for each intermediate variable and each of these terms resembles the one-dimensional Chain Rule in Equation 1.

To remember the Chain Rule, it’s helpful to draw the tree diagram in Figure 2.


The Chain Rule

We draw branches from the dependent variable z to the intermediate variables x and y to indicate that z is a

function of x and y. Then we draw branches from x and y to the independent variables s and t.

On each branch we write the corresponding partial

derivative. To find ∂z/∂s, we find the product of the partial derivatives along each path from z to s and then add these products:


The Chain Rule

Similarly, we find ∂z/∂t by using the paths from z to t.

Now we consider the general situation in which a dependent variable u is a function of n intermediate

variables x1, …, xn, each of which is, in turn, a function of m independent variables t1,…, tm.

Notice that there are n terms, one for each intermediate variable. The proof is similar to that of Case 1.


The Chain Rule


Implicit Differentiation


Implicit Differentiation

The Chain Rule can be used to give a more complete description of the process of implicit differentiation.

We suppose that an equation of the form F(x, y) = 0

defines y implicitly as a differentiable function of x, that is, y = f(x), where F(x, f(x)) = 0 for all x in the domain of f.

If F is differentiable, we can apply Case 1 of the Chain Rule to differentiate both sides of the equation F(x, y) = 0 with respect to x.

Since both x and y are functions of x, we obtain


Implicit Differentiation

But dx/dx = 1, so if ∂F/∂x ≠ 0 we solve for dy/dx and obtain

To derive this equation we assumed that F(x, y) = 0 defines y implicitly as a function of x.


Implicit Differentiation

The Implicit Function Theorem, proved in advanced

calculus, gives conditions under which this assumption is valid: it states that if F is defined on a disk containing (a, b), where F(a, b) = 0, Fy(a, b) ≠ 0, and Fx and Fy are

continuous on the disk, then the equation F(x, y) = 0 defines y as a function of x near the point (a, b) and the derivative of this function is given by Equation 6.


Example 8

Find y′ if x3 + y3 = 6xy.


The given equation can be written as F(x, y) = x3 + y3 – 6xy = 0 so Equation 6 gives


Implicit Differentiation

Now we suppose that z is given implicitly as a function z = f(x, y) by an equation of the form F(x, y, z) = 0.

This means that F(x, y, f(x, y)) = 0 for all (x, y) in the

domain of f. If F and f are differentiable, then we can use the Chain Rule to differentiate the equation F(x, y, z) = 0 as follows:


Implicit Differentiation

But and

so this equation becomes

If ∂F/∂z ≠ 0, we solve for ∂z/∂x and obtain the first formula in Equations 7.

The formula for ∂z/∂y is obtained in a similar manner.


Implicit Differentiation

Again, a version of the Implicit Function Theorem

stipulates conditions under which our assumption is valid:

if F is defined within a sphere containing (a, b, c), where F(a, b, c) = 0, Fz(a, b, c) ≠ 0, and Fx, Fy, and Fz are

continuous inside the sphere, then the equation

F(x, y, z) = 0 defines z as a function of x and y near the point (a, b, c) and this function is differentiable, with partial




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