Constructing the tangent line of quadratic without calculus

The tangent line of a quadratic function at (x_0, y_0)is a line y=kx+m that intersects y=ax^2+bx+c at (x_0, y_0=ax_0^2+bx_0+c) only.

The presence of function y=kx+m immediately excludes the vertical line x=x_0 which also intersects y=ax^2+bx+c at (x_0, ax_0^2+bx_0+c) only (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

Let’s find k.

Line y = kx+m intersects y=ax^2+bx+c at (x_0, ax_0^2+bx_0+c) only means quadratic equation

ax^2+bx +c =kx +m

has only one solution. That is, the discriminant of ax^2+bx+c-kx-m =0 is zero:

(b-k)^2-4a(c-m) = 0\quad\quad\quad(1)

Fig. 2

And, by the definition of slope (see Fig. 2),

(x-x_0)k = (kx+m)-(ax_0^2+bx_0+c).

It follows that

m = (ax_0^2+b_0+c)-x_0 k\quad\quad\quad(2)

Substituting (2) into (1), we have

(b-k)^2-4a(c-((a_0 x^2+b x_0 + c)-x_0 k)=0.

Solve it for k gives

k = 2 a x_0 +b.

Fig. 3

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