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In mathematics, a fundamental concept of differential calculus representing the instantaneous rate of change of a function. The first derivative of a function is a function whose values can be interpreted as slopes of tangent lines to the graph of the original function at a given point. The derivative of a derivative (known as the second derivative) describes the rate of change of the rate of change, and can be thought of physically as acceleration. The process of finding a derivative is called differentiation.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on derivative, visit Britannica.com.