Mean value theorem

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In calculus, the mean value theorem states, roughly, that given an arc of a smooth continuous (differentiable) curve, there is at least one point on that arc at which the derivative (slope) of the curve is equal (parallel) to the "average" derivative of the arc.[1] Briefly, a suitable infinitesimal element of the arc is parallel to the secant chord connecting the endpoints of the arc. The theorem is used to prove theorems that make global conclusions about a function on an interval starting from local hypotheses about derivatives at points of the interval.

More precisely, if a function f(x) is continuous on the closed interval [ab] and differentiable on the open interval (ab), then there exists a point c in (ab) such that

This theorem can be understood intuitively by applying it to motion: If a car travels one hundred miles in one hour, then its average speed during that time was 100 miles per hour. To get at that average speed, the car either has to go at a constant 100 miles per hour during that whole time, or, if it goes slower at one moment, it has to go faster at another moment as well (and vice versa), in order to still end up with an average of 100 miles per hour. Therefore, the Mean Value Theorem tells us that at some point during the journey, the car must have been traveling at exactly 100 miles per hour; that is, it was traveling at its average speed.

A special case of this theorem was first described by Parameshvara (1370–1460) from the Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics in his commentaries on Govindasvāmi and Bhaskara II.[2] The mean value theorem in its modern form was later stated by Augustin Louis Cauchy (1789–1857). It is one of the most important results in differential calculus, as well as one of the most important theorems in mathematical analysis, and is essential in proving the fundamental theorem of calculus. The mean value theorem follows from the more specific statement of Rolle's theorem, and can be used to prove the more general statement of Taylor's theorem (with Lagrange form of the remainder term).


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