# All Science Fair Projects

## Science Fair Project Encyclopedia for Schools!

 Search    Browse    Forum  Coach    Links    Editor    Help    Tell-a-Friend    Encyclopedia    Dictionary

# Science Fair Project Encyclopedia

For information on any area of science that interests you,
enter a keyword (eg. scientific method, molecule, cloud, carbohydrate etc.).
Or else, you can start by choosing any of the categories below.

# Stationary point

In mathematics, particularly in calculus, a stationary point is a point on the graph of a function where the tangent to the graph is parallel to the x-axis or, equivalently, where the derivative of the function equals zero (known as a critical number).

An inflection point is a point where the concavity changes. A point of inflection is not necessarily a stationary point. All inflection points have the property of f''(x) = 0 but the reverse is not necessarily true.

Stationary points of a real valued function f: RR are classified into four kinds:

• a minimal extremum (minimal turning point or relative minimum) is one where the derivative of the function changes from negative to positive;
• a maximal extremum (maximal turning point or relative maximum) is one where the derivative of the function changes from positive to negative;
• a rising point of inflection (or inflexion) is one where the derivative of the function is positive on both sides of the stationary point; such a point marks a change in concavity
• a falling point of inflection (or inflexion) is one where the derivative of the function is negative on both sides of the stationary point; such a point marks a change in concavity

Notice: Global (or absolute) maxima and minima are sometimes called global (or absolute) maximal (resp. minimal) extrema. While they may occur at stationary points, they are not actually an example of a stationary point.

Determining the position and nature of stationary points aids in curve sketching, especially for continuous functions. Solving the equation f'(x) = 0 returns the x-coordinates of all stationary points; the y-coordinates are trivially the function values at those x-coordinates. The specific nature of a stationary point at x can in some cases be determined by examining the second derivative f''(x):

• If f''(x) < 0, the stationary point at x is a maximal extremum.
• If f''(x) > 0, the stationary point at x is a minimal extremum.
• If f''(x) = 0, the nature of the stationary point must be determined by way of other means, often by noting a sign change around that point provided the function values exist around that point.

A more straightforward way of determining the nature of a stationary point is by examining the function values between the stationary points. However, this is limited again in that it works only for functions that are continuous in at least a small interval surrounding the stationary point.

A simple example of a point of inflection is the function f(x) = x3. There is a clear change of concavity about the point x = 0, and we can prove this by means of calculus. The second derivative of f is the everywhere-continuous 6x, and at x = 0, f′′ = 0, and the sign changes about this point. So x = 0 is a point of inflection.

More generally, the stationary points of a real valued function f: RnR are those points x0 where the derivative in every direction equals zero, or equivalently, the gradient is zero.

### Example

```At x1  we have f' (x) = 0 and f''(x) = 0. Even though f''(x) = 0, this point is not a point of inflexion.  The reason is that the sign of f' (x) changes from negative to positive.
```

At x2, we have f' (0) $\ne$ 0 and f''(x) = 0. But, x2 is not a stationary point, rather it is a point of inflexion. This because the concavity changes from concave upwards to concave downwards and the sign of f' (x) does not change; it stays positive.

At x3 we have f' (0) = 0 and f''(x) = 0. Here, x3 is both a stationary point and a point of inflexion. This is because the concavity changes from concave upwards to concave downwards and the sign of f' (x) does not change; it stays positive.