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#### Published on 23 Jul 2015 | over 2 years ago

1) CHAIN RULE: You need the chain rule to take the derivative when you have a function inside a function, or a "composite function". For example, in the equation y = (3x + 1)^7, since the function 3x+1 is inside a larger, outer function, the power of 7, you will need the chain rule to find the correct derivative. How do you use the chain rule? You can think of the chain rule as the "OUTSIDE-INSIDE" rule: take the DERIVATIVE of JUST the OUTSIDE function first, LEAVING THE INSIDE FUNCTION alone (unchanged), and then MULTIPLY BY the DERIVATIVE of JUST the INSIDE function. Sometimes you might hear this expressed as: take the derivative of the outer function, "evaluated at the inner function", times the derivative of just the inner function. For our example, first take the derivative of the outer function (the power of 7) to get 7*(3x + 1)^6 since the power rule tells you that to take the derivative of a power you bring down the power to the front (as a constant or coefficient just multiplied in the front) and then you decrease the power by 1, which leaves a power of 6. Notice that you leave the inside function the way it is and just rewrite it for now. Then you multiply by the derivative of just the inner function, 3x + 1. Since the derivative of 3x + 1 is just 3, the full derivative (dy/dx) is: 7*[(3x + 1)^6]*3, which is just 21(3x + 1)^6.

1b) HOW do you know WHEN TO USE the chain rule? If the original equation had just been x^7, there would be no need for the chain rule. It's when you have something more than just x inside that you should use the chain rule, such as (3x + 1)^7 or even (x^2 + 1)^7. Sometimes the chain rule may make no difference. For instance, if you have the function (x + 1)^7, taking the derivative of the inside function just gives you 1, so multiplying by that inside derivative of 1 will not change the overall answer. However, it can't hurt to use the chain rule anyway, so it's a good idea to get in the habit of using it so that you don't forget it when it really does make a difference.

2) Another chain POWER RULE example: To find the derivative of h(x) = (x^2 + 5x - 6)^9, use the same steps as above to first take the outside derivative and then multiply by the inside derivative. In this case, the derivative, dh/dx (or h'(x)) is equal to 9(x^2 + 5x - 6)^8 * (2x + 5). Using the chain rule with the power rule is sometimes called the "power chain rule".

3) TRIG EXAMPLE: the idea is the same as above even if you are using the chain rule to differentiate something like a trigonometric function. If you have anything more than just x inside the trig function, you will need the chain rule to find the derivative. For the equation y = sin(x^2 - 3x), you first take the derivative of the outer function, just the sine function. Since the derivative of sine is cosine, the outside derivative (with the inside left unchanged) is cos(x^2 - 3x). Then, find the derivative of just the inside (of just the x^2 - 3x part), and multiply by that. Since the derivative of x^2 - 3x is 2x - 3, the full derivative answer is dy/dx = cos(x^2 - 3x)*(2x - 3).

3b) FORMULA: Although it's easier to think about the chain rule as the "outside-inside rule", if for any reason you have to use the formal chain rule formula, check out the two versions I show here. Both are based on the equation being a composition of functions, f(g(x)). The second version shown uses Liebniz notation. Either way, both show a component of the derivative that comes from the inside function, and it's important not to forget to multiply by this inside derivative factor if you want to get the right full derivative answer.

P.S.) DOUBLE CHAIN RULE: Sometimes you might have to use the chain rule more than once, known as "repeated use of the chain rule". In y = (1 + cos2x)^2, not only would you need to take the derivative of the outside power of 2, as well as multiply by the derivative of the inside function, 1 + cos2x, but after that you would ALSO then need to multiply by the derivative of the 2x inside cosine because that inside function was 1 + cos2x and not just 1 + cosx. Anyway, this means you would use the chain rule twice. The idea is that you have to keep taking the derivative of the inner functions until you have reached every inner function that is more complicated than just "x".
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