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MA 1024, Partial derivatives


The purpose of this lab is to acquaint you with using Maple to compute partial derivatives.

Getting Started

To assist you, there is a worksheet associated with this lab that contains examples. You can copy that worksheet to your home directory with the following command, which must be run in a terminal window like teraterm, not in Maple.

cp /math/calclab/MA1024/Partials.mws My_Documents

You can copy the worksheet now, but you should read through the lab before you load it into Maple. Once you have read to the exercises, start up Maple, load the worksheet Partials.mws, and go through it carefully. Then you can start working on the exercises.


For a function $f(x)$ of a single real variable, the derivative $f'(x)$ gives information on whether the graph of $f$ is increasing or decreasing. Finding where the derivative is zero was important in finding extreme values. For a function $F(x,y)$ of two (or more) variables, the situation is more complicated.

Partial derivatives

A differentiable function, $F(x,y)$, of two variables has two partial derivatives: $\partial F /\partial x$ and $\partial F /\partial
y$. As you have learned in class, computing partial derivatives is very much like computing regular derivatives. The main difference is that when you are computing $\partial F /\partial x$, you must treat the variable $y$ as if it was a constant and vice-versa when computing $\partial F /\partial

The Maple commands for computing partial derivatives are D and diff. The Getting Started worksheet has examples of how to use these commands to compute partial derivatives.


  1. Compute the three distinct second order partial derivatives of

    \begin{displaymath}f(x,y)=e^{xy}\sin(x+y) \end{displaymath}

    using the diff command and then again using the D command.

  2. Given the function

    \begin{displaymath}g(x,y)=x^3-3xy^2 \end{displaymath}

    do the following:
    Plot the function and the plane $y=-3$ on the same graph.
    Find the first order partial derivative with respect to x.
    Find the derivative of $g$ in the $y=-3$ plane.
    Find the equation of the tangent line at the point $x=2$ in the $y=-3$ plane.
    Graph the two-dimensional intersection of the plane and $g$ along with the tangent line at $x=2$
    Does your two-dimensional graph look like the intersection form your tree-dimensional graph?

  3. Given:

    \begin{displaymath}h(x,y)=\frac{x^2}{7}+\frac{y^2}{5} \end{displaymath}

    Find the tangent plane at $(4,1,z)$.
    Plot the function $h(x,y)$ and the tangent plane.

next up previous
Next: About this document ... Up: lab_template Previous: lab_template
Jane E Bouchard