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Teaching Differentiating Functions through Solar Energy Data

Classroom/Laboratory Activity

A classroom/ laboratory activity titled, ‘Country Photovoltaic Energy Production’ from Sustainability Math by Thomas J. Pfaff, Ithaca College, USA, to teach differentiating functions – logistic and exponential, using a hands-on computer-based classroom activity that includes data of photovoltaic (solar) energy production of several countries from 1990 to 2016.

This data is provided in an Excel spreadsheet. The classroom activity also includes a Word document that contains directions on how to use different mathematical methods on the data provided.

Students will learn how to apply their understanding of logistic and exponential functions and apply the Quotient (or Product) Rule to describe the rates of increase of photovoltaic energy production over time in several countries such as Germany, Italy, and USA, amongst others, in recent times.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. What are differentiating functions?
  2.  Distinguish between logarithmic, exponential, and logistic differentiating functions.
  3. How has the rate of global solar energy production changed since 1990?
  4. How do the rates of solar energy production in select countries (from the given datasets) differ from that of the World?
  5. Discuss how the use of photovoltaic energy can be a viable alternative to fossil fuels to combat global warming.
About Tool
Tool Name Country Photovoltaic Energy Production 
Discipline Mathematics and Statistics
Topic(s) in Discipline Differentiation, Functions, Logarithmic, Exponential, Logistic Differentiating Functions, Quotient or Product Rule 
Climate Topic Climate Mitigation and Adaptation
Type of tool Classroom/Laboratory Activity 
Grade Level High School, Undergraduate
Location Global
Language English
Translation      –
Developed by Thomas J. Pfaff
Hosted at Sustainability Math 
Access Online, Offline
Computer Skills Basic


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