## 7.3 The Symmetric Approximation: f '(x) ~ (f(x+d) - f(x-d)) / (2d)

**Using this formula for the "d-approximation" to the derivative
is much more efficient than using the naïve formula **

**Why is it better?**

The answer is that the "symmetric formula" is exactly right if f
is a quadratic function, which means that the error made by it is proportional
to d^{2} or less as d decreases. The naïve formula is wrong for quadratics
and makes an error that is proportional to d.

How come?

Suppose f is a quadratic: f(x) = ax^{2} + bx + c.

Then we get

f(x + d) = a(x + d)^{2} + b(x + d) + x

and

On the other hand, we get

This means that the symmetric approximation is exact for any value of d for
any quadratic; no need to make d small; and this is not true for the asymmetric
formula.

In general, if our function being differentiated, f(x + d), can be expanded
in a power series in d, the first error in our symmetric formula comes from
cubic terms, and will be proportional to d^{2}.

The reason this happens is that the d^{2} term in f(x + d) - f(x - d) cancels
itself out, being the same in both terms. The same things happens for all even
power terms, by the way; the errors in this approximation to the derivative
all come from odd power terms in the power series expansion of f about x.

Thus, if we replace d by ,
the error in the symmetric approximation will decline by a factor of 4, while
the asymmetric formula has error which declines only by a factor of 2 when we
divide d by 2.

And so, the symmetric formula approaches the true answer for the derivative
much faster than the naïve asymmetric one does, as we decrease d.

**Now we ask: can we get even faster convergence?**