Explorations in Precalculus
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Introduction


The Student[Precalculus] package enables the exploration of topics from a precalculus class. The tutors available in the package provide students with the ability to visualize the composition of functions, secant lines approaching a tangent line, numeric intuition about limits, equation and graph of a straight line, graph of a rational function with asymptotes, graphs of systems of linear inequalities, graphs and zeros of polynomials, graphs of elementary functions. In addition, the package enables students to compute the center of mass, distance, midpoint, slope, line, complete the square and center of mass.
See Student[Precalculus] for more information on all the commands and tutors available in this package.
The Student[Precalculus] package comes with four tutors: the Conic Sections Tutor, the Linear Inequalities Tutor, the Rational Functions Tutor, and the Line Tutor. These tutors can be accessed by:
1.

Launching the tutor of choice from the Tools > Tutors menu and typing the equation.

2.

Loading the Student[Precalculus] package using the with command (or by selecting the package from the Tools > Load Package menu). Once the package is loaded, you can access the tutorials from the context menu by rightclicking (Controlclick, for Macintosh) on the equation of interest.

The SetColors command is available for all the Student subpackages. It sets a color sequence for commands and tutors that use default colors to distinguish various mathematical objects.


Composition of Functions


To study the composition of two functions such as
use the Function Composition tutor. The easiest way to launch this tutor with the functions and already embedded, is via the context menu. If the Student[Precalculus] package has already been loaded, then the context menu will provide access to all relevant tutors.
The context menu for a sequence of two expressions such as will contain the options Tutors > Precalculus > Function Composition. Figure 1 shows the Function Composition tutor for this pair of expressions.

Figure 1: Function Composition Tutor for and



As per the indicated colorcoding, the graph shows in red, in black, in green, and in blue.
The graph provided by the tutor shows both compositions simultaneously. The associated CompositionPlot command draws just one of the two possible compositions, with being the default. To obtain the graph of use the syntax


Conic Sections


The Conic Sections tutor will analyze and graph the conic section determined by its associated quadratic equation. The equation can be given in Cartesian coordinates (using and ) or in polar coordinates using or where or , with either or . In Cartesian coordinates, the quadratic can have an term, which rotates the conic.
Figure 2 shows the Conic Sections tutor applied to the Cartesian equation

Figure 2: Conic Sections Tutor applied to



The totality of the information in the analysis window appears in Figure 3.
class: ellipse
eccentricity: .723
semimajor axis (a): 4.28
semiminor axis (b): 2.96
latus rectum: 4.09
angle: 3/8*Pi

In the xyplane:
vertices: [(8.60,6.57), (.689,3.29)]
foci: [(7.50,6.11), (1.79,3.74)]
center (h,k): (4.64,4.93)
directrix: y = 2.41*x.665

In the x'y'plane:
vertices: [(2.78,10.5), (2.78,1.90)]
foci: [(2.78,9.27), (2.78,3.08)]
center (h',k'): (2.78,6.18)
directrix: y' = .255



Figure 3: Contents of analysis window of the Conic Sections Tutor
The graph of the conic is drawn in the plane. The analysis window (see Figure 3) provides details for the conic as drawn in the plane, and as it would appear in the plane where the conic assumes the standard form shown in Figure 2. The eccentricity, major and minor axes, and length of the latus rectum are the same for any orientation of the conic. The coordinates of the center, vertices and foci change with orientation, as does the equation of the directrix.
The Task Template "Conic  Analysis and Graph", located in Tools > Tasks > Browse > Algebra > Conic Analysis and Graph, appears in Figure 4. Pressing the launch button after the equation is dragged, pasted, or typed into the template's math container launches the tutor with the equation embedded. Closing the tutor afterwards writes the graph to the plot window of the template.
Analyze a Quadratic Equation Using the Conics Tutor

Enter a quadratic equation:






Figure 4: Task template for launching the Conic Sections Tutor





Secant and Tangent Lines


To superimpose secant and tangent lines on the graph of the function
use the Function Slope tutor. Launching this tutor from the Context Menu yields Figure 5 in which the default point of contact for the tangent line is at .

Figure 5: The Function Slope Tutor applied to



In general, ten secant lines are drawn, each passing through the point of contact where . The other point coincident with the graph of the function has coordinate The tangent line is drawn in green, and its equation is given on the right in the tutor. The table of values in the tutor lists the coordinate common to the curve and secant line, and the slope of the corresponding secant line.
Figure 6 is created with the FunctionSlopePlot command, as per the display at the bottom of the tutor shown in Figure 5. This command defaults to an animation. Click on the graph to access the animation toolbar, with which the animation of the secant line with intersections at can be activated.
Click the Play button
and watch the animation. To step through the frames of the animation, click
.

Figure 6: Secant and tangent lines on a graph of





Intuitive Limits


To obtain some sense of what the word "limit" means mathematically, apply the Limits tutor to a function such as .
Figure 7 shows the use of this tutor. The graph in the tutor defaults to an animation in which a point moves along the curve according to the values listed in the tables to its right. If the coordinate of the point at which the limit is being investigated is , then the neighboring points at which the function is sampled are
For instance, you can apply the Limits tutor to

Figure 7: The Limits Tutor applied to



The animation in the Limits tutor can be generated by the LimitPlot command, as shown in Figure 8. Click on the plot to access the animation toolbar.

Figure 8: Animation illustrating "limit"





Straight Lines


To graph and otherwise analyze the line , launch the Line tutor via the context menu. The result is shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9: The Line Tutor applied to the equation



The line is graphed, and its equation is rendered in pointslope, twopoint, slopeintercept, and general forms. The pointslope form uses the intercept for the point, while the twopoint form uses the intercept and the point
The Line command, shown at the bottom of the tutor, provides a graph of the line. In addition, the Line command can be used to obtain the equation, slope, intercept, and intercept if given any of the data listed in Table 1. Table 2 illustrates these uses.
1.

point and slope (in any order)

3.

slope and intercept (in that order)


 (1) 

Table 1: Computational inputs to the Line command

Table 2: Examples of the use of the Line command



The Line tutor can also be launched by the LineTutor command with any of the arguments in Table 4, or with the equation of a line.


Linear Inequalities


The Linear Inequalities tutor shows the feasible region for a set of linear inequalities. It can be accessed via the context menu applied to a sequence, list, or set of up to six linear inequalities. It can also be launched by the LinearInequalitiesTutor command with argument either a set or list of no more than six linear inequalities. Figure 10 shows the default content of this tutor, the feasible region for six linear inequalities. Clearing the check box beside an inequality removes it from the set whose feasible region is graphed when the Display button is pressed.

Figure 10: Default content of the Linear Inequalities Tutor, with feasible region shown in red



The graph is drawn with the inequal command from the plots package. This command is not restricted in the number of linear inequalities it can resolve, and has numerous options for coloring the feasible and infeasible regions and their boundaries. The Linear Inequalities tutor is simply a more convenient frontend to this command.
You can launch this tutor from the context menu applied to inequalities entered in math mode, or use the Task Template Tools > Tasks > Browse > Algebra > Graph Linear Inequalities, as per Figure 11.
Graph Linear Inequalities


Enter up to six linear inequalities separated by commas:





Figure 11: The Task Template Graph Linear Inequalities



The inequalities are entered using math mode, and the tutor launched by pressing the obvious button. When the tutor is closed, the graph it generates is embedded in the box on the right, thus preserving a view of the inequalities and the feasible region.


Polynomials


The real zeros and graph of a polynomial are provided by the Polynomial tutor, which can be launched by any of the methods in Table 2. Figure 12 shows the Polynomial tutor applied to . When the real zeros are not simple integers, the tutor reverts to floats to express them. They (the intercepts on the graph) are displayed in the box labeled "Roots".

Figure 12: The Polynomial Tutor applied to





Rational Functions


The Rational Functions tutor draws a graph of a rational function  complete with all its asymptotes  and provides the equations of the asymptotes. Figure 13 shows this tutor applied to the function .

Figure 13: Rational Functions Tutor applied to the function



Direct entry of the rational function requires separating the numerator and denominator. Alternate methods of launching the tutor as per Table 2 do not require this separation.
Closing the tutor returns just the graph. To get the equations of the asymptotes, use the Task Template Tools > Tasks > Browse > Algebra > Rational Function  Graph and Asymptotes, shown in Figure 14.
Rational Function Tutor

Enter a rational function

Asymptotes
Horizontal

Oblique

Vertical




Plot




Figure 14: The Task Template Rational Function  Graph and Asymptotes



Using the Task Template, you can enter the Rational Function tutor. When you close the tutor, the graph is returned. When you click Asymptotes, the information about asymptotes is likewise preserved.
Note: As shown at the bottom of the tutor, the graph is drawn with the RationalFunctionPlot command. For more information on this command and its options, see RationalFunctionPlot.


Elementary Functions


Explore the graphs of elementary functions. The Standard Functions tutor lets you graph any of these elementary functions: the six trigonometric functions and their inverses, the six hyperbolic trig functions and their inverses, the natural and common logarithmic functions, and the exponential functions.
Given an elementary function , draw its graph and experiment with transformations of the form . Figure 15 shows this tutor applied to the function .

Figure 15 The Standard Functions Tutor applied to , (in red), with the black curve curve corresponding to a horizontal shift of



The tutor defaults to . Changing one or more of these values and pressing the Display button adds the transformed curve (in black) to the graph.
The graph is drawn with the basic Maple plot command, as shown in the Maple Command window at the bottom of the tutor.


Weighted Average


The center of mass of a discrete system of particles is the weighted average of their Cartesian coordinates or position vectors. The CenterOfMass command in the Student[Precalculus] package computes this weighted average using lists (for coordinates) and/or vectors. To give a weight (i.e., mass), enclose the object and its weight in list brackets. If no weights are explicitly given, the weights are assumed to be 1. Table 3 contains examples.


Distance between Points


The (Euclidean) distance between Cartesian points is obtained with the Distance command, which accepts locations given as points and/or vectors in any number of dimensions. Several examples are listed in Table 4.
The distance between and

 (4) 

The distance between and

 (5) 

Table 4: Examples of the distance between two points computed by the Distance command





Midpoint of a Line Segment


The coordinates of the midpoint of the line segment connecting the points , are given by
As with the CenterOfMass and Distance commands, Cartesian points can be described as lists or vectors. Table 5 illustrates the use of the Midpoint command.
Midpoint of the segment connecting and

 (6) 

Midpoint of the segment connecting and

 (7) 

Table 5: Examples of the midpoint of a line segment computed by the Midpoint command





Slope of a Line


The slope of the line passing through the points and is given by
As with the CenterOfMass, Distance and Midpoint commands, points in the Cartesian plane can be described as lists or vectors. Table 6 gives examples of the use of the Slope command for computing the slope between two planar points.
The slope of the line passing through the points and is given by

 (8) 

The slope of the line passing through the points and is given by any of the formalisms at the right

 (9) 

Table 6: Computation of the slope by the Slope command





Algebraic Completion of the Square


The CompleteSquare command will write the quadratic expression as . This command can be applied to expressions and equations, to one or more variables, and to functions such as or . Table 7 lists a number of examples of the functioning of this command.

 (10) 


 (11) 


 (12) 


 (13) 


 (14) 

Table 7: The CompleteSquare command illustrated



Note: To execute this table, select the entire table and press the execute button,
.
The iterated integrals in the last example in Table 9 appear in gray. This indicates they are the inert form of the integral, corresponding to the Maple Int command. Normally, the Maple int command would immediately evaluate the integral before passing it to the CompleteSquare command, so it is essential that the inert form be used. To set this inert form in math notation, either type Int and use command completion (e.g.,Tools > Complete Command) or enter the indefinite integral template from the Expression palette, and use the context menu to convert it to its inert form (e.g. 2D Math > Convert To > Inert Form).

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