Successive Differentiation

Successive Differentiation:

  • Successive differentiation involves finding derivatives of a function y=f(x) with respect to x multiple times, generating higher-order derivatives.


  • First derivative: dydx=f(x)
  • Second derivative: d2ydx2=f(x)
  • nth derivative: dnydxn

Steps for Successive Differentiation:

  1. Find the first derivative of the function y=f(x).
  2. If necessary, find higher-order derivatives by differentiating the function again and again, n times.
  3. Interpret the derivatives in terms of the function's behavior at different levels of rate of change.

Rules for Successive Differentiation:

  • Power Rule: The nth derivative of xn is n!=n(n1)(n2)21.
  • Constant Rule: The derivative of a constant c is always zero.
  • Sum and Difference Rule: The derivative of a sum or difference of functions is the sum or difference of their derivatives.
  • Product Rule: (uv)=uv+uv
  • Quotient Rule: (uv)=uvuvv2
  • Chain Rule: Derivative of a composite function: dydx=dydududx

Successive Differentiation Process:

  1. Find the first derivative of the function using differentiation rules.
  2. Repeat the differentiation process to find higher-order derivatives, applying the derivative rules iteratively.


Given y=x3+2x2+4x+6:

  1. Find the first derivative: dydx=3x2+4x+4

  2. Find the second derivative: d2ydx2=ddx(3x2+4x+4)=6x+4

  3. Find the third derivative: d3ydx3=ddx(6x+4)=6


Given y=3x4+2x35x2+7x9, find y and y(3).

  1. Find the first derivative:

    • y=12x3+6x210x+7
  2. Find the second derivative y:

    • y=ddx(12x3+6x210x+7)
    • y=36x2+12x10
  3. Find the third derivative y(3):

    • y(3)=ddx(36x2+12x10)
    • y(3)=72x+12


  • The first derivative (f(x) gives the slope of the function.
  • The second derivative (f(x) represents the rate of change of the slope.
  • The third derivative (f(x) describes the rate of change of the rate of change of the slope or the concavity of the curve.



Applications of Successive Differentiation:

  • Rate of Change Analysis:
    • Higher-order derivatives provide information on changes in rate of change, acceleration, and curvature of functions.
  • Optimization Problems:
    • Identifying critical points (where derivatives are zero) to determine maximum or minimum values.
  • Physics and Engineering:
    • Studying motion, acceleration, and forces by examining higher-order derivatives.

Special Considerations:

  • Interpretation of Higher Derivatives:

    • Beyond the second derivative, higher-order derivatives have specific interpretations in terms of the function's behavior.
  • Notation and Symbols:

    • The notation for higher-order derivatives involves adding primes ('), exponents, or using dndxn notation.

Advantages of Successive Differentiation:

  • Understanding Complex Functions:
    • Higher-order derivatives reveal more detailed information about a function's behavior.
  • Problem Solving:
    • Useful in solving differential equations and modeling dynamic systems.