# At a Glance - Exponential Functions

A power function has a variable x in the base and a constant for the power. An exponential function has a constant for the base and a variable for the power:

f(x) = ax.

In order to make life easier (we do that sometimes) we assume a is not 0, 1, or negative. If a is 0 then our function is f(x) = 0x, which is undefined when x = 0 and is 0 everywhere else. Not too interesting.

If a is 1 then our function is f(x) = 1x = 1, which is a constant function, so also not too interesting. If a is negative, the function f(x) = ax is too weird to deal with: f will be negative some places, positive some places, and undefined at a lot of places (such as when x = 0.5.).

### Sample Problem

The following are exponential functions:

f(x) = 2x
f(x) = ex
f(x) = (0.5)x

### Sample Problem

The function

f(x) = xx

is not an exponential function because it has a variable for the base and the power.

When we think of "exponential function," a good default function to think of is

f(x) = ex

If we look at the estimates from the previous exercise, we're estimating that when f(x) = ex,

It turns out this is accurate. The derivative of the function f(x) = ex is

f'(x) = ex.

f(x) = ex is its own derivative.

### Sample Problem

If f(x) = ex then f ' (4) = e4.

Of course, there are exponential functions with other bases besides e. We'll give the derivative rule here, and the reasons after we talk about the chain rule.

If f(x) = ax, then f ' (x) = ax ln a.

### Sample Problem

If f(x) = 2x, then f ' (x) = 2x ln 2. To find the value of the derivative at a specific value of x, we plug that value in for x in the derivative function:

f ' (4) = 24 ln 2 = 16ln2.

#### Exercise 1

Let f(x) = ex. For the value of a, fill in the table and use the resulting values to estimate f ' (a).

• a = 0

#### Exercise 2

Let f(x) = ex. For the value of a, fill in the table and use the resulting values to estimate f ' (a).

• a = 1

#### Exercise 3

Let f(x) = ex. For the value of a, fill in the table and use the resulting values to estimate f ' (a).

• a = 2

#### Exercise 4

Use the fact that f(x) = ex is its own derivative to find the following value.

• f ' (5)

#### Exercise 5

Use the fact that f(x) = ex is its own derivative to find the following value.

• f ' (-2)

#### Exercise 6

Use the fact that f(x) = ex is its own derivative to find the following value.

• f ' (ln 5)

#### Exercise 7

Use the fact that f(x) = ex is its own derivative to find the following value.

• f ' (0)

#### Exercise 8

Use the fact that f(x) = ex is its own derivative to find the following value.

#### Exercise 9

• Let f(x) = 3x. Find each of the following.
1. f ' (x)
2. f ' (2)
3. f ' (-2)

#### Exercise 10

• Let g(x) = 5x. Find each of the following.
1. g ' (x)
2. g ' (0)
3. g ' (0.5)

#### Exercise 11

• Let h(x) = ex. Find each of the following.
1. h ' (x)
2. h ' (-1)
3. h ' (5)