Derivatives > Derivative of Tan x
What is the Derivative of Tan x?
The derivative of tan x is sec2x:
See also: Common derivative rules.
How to Take the Derivative of Tan x
Step 1: Name the numerator (top term) in the quotient g(x) and the denominator (bottom term) h(x). You could use any names you like, as it won’t make a difference to the algebra. However, g(x) and h(x) are very common choices.
- g(x) = sin(x)
- h(x) = cos(x)
Step 2: Put g(x) and h(x) into the quotient rule formula.
Note that I used d/dx here to denote a derivative instead of g(x)’ or h(x)’. You can use either notation: it’s a personal choice.
Step 3: Differentiate the functions from Step 2. There’s two parts to differentiate:
- The derivative of the first part of the function—sin(x)— is cos(x)
- The derivative of cos(x) is -sin(x).
Placing those derivatives into the equation, we get:
f'(x) = [cos(x)*cos(x) – (-sin(x))*sin(x)] / cos(x)2
f'(x)= cos2(x) + sin2(x) / cos(x)2.
Step 4: Use algebra / trig identities to simplify.
- Specifically, start by using the identity cos2(x) + sin2(x) = 1
- This gives you 1/cos2(x), which is equivalent in trigonometry to sec2(x).
If algebra isn’t your strong point, you might find these steps a bit tricky. Chegg offers 30 minutes free tutoring, so if you’re stuck, give them a try!
Proof of the Derivative of Tan x
There are a couple of ways to prove the derivative tan x. You could start with the definition of a derivative and prove the rule using trigonometric identities. But there’s actually a much easier way, and is basically the steps you took above to solve for the derivative. As it relies only on trig identities and a little algebra, it is valid as a proof. Plus, it skips the need for using the definition of a derivative at all.
Sample problem: Prove the derivative tan x is sec2x.
Step 1: Write out the derivative tan x as being equal to the derivative of the trigonometric identity sin x / cos x:
Step 2: Use the quotient rule to get:
Step 3: Use algebra to simplify:
Step 4: Substitute the trigonometric identity sin(x) + cos2(x) = 1:
Step 5: Substitute the trigonometric identity 1/cos2x = sec2x to get the final answer:
d/dx tan x = sec2x
Nicolaides, A. (2007). Pure mathematics: Differential calculus and applications, Volume 4. Pass Publications.
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