Friday, May 17, 2013

Intuitive Notion of the Limit - One-Sided Limits

This applet, which is part of Marc Renault's GeoGebra Calculus Applets collection, provides an intuitive introduction to the idea of a limit of a function as x approaches c from the right, left, or both.

The red, green, and blue lines along the x-axis, y-axis and the function which shrink as you decrease δ help with the visualization of motion along the function toward the point where x = c and the corresponding motion toward the limiting values on the axes. Choose from the good library of example functions that are included or enter your own. (I like to start with my own rational function which looks linear but actually has an unseen hole to emphasize from the very beginning the difference between the value of a function and its limit at a point.)

When I used this with a class for the first time, my students asked to see the examples with "Exploding" in the title and they reacted audibly to the motion of the green lines on the y-axis as the function approached its asymptote. My experience has been that when introduced to the idea of limits on a graph there are always a few students who have a lot of difficulty visualizing the various ways in which certain things approach approach other things, and starting with this applet seemed to really help.

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