which I am calling unfamiliar not because it's a particularly deep result, but because it's just not something one usually writes out. It could be proven by induction from the more "standard" product rule (uv)' = u'v + uv'.
But why don't we teach this to freshmen? Sure, the notation might be a bit of a barrier; I get the sense that a lot of my students learn the Σ notation for the first time when we teach them about infinite sequences and series, at the end of the second-semester calculus course; of course they learn about derivatives, including multiple derivatives, sometime in the first semester. (If it is true that they are seeing the Σ notation for the first time then, it doesn't seem quite fair, because then we're asking them to assimilate this weird notation and some real understanding of the concept of infinity at the same time. Indeed, at Penn we often tell them not to worry so much about the notation.) But ignoring the notational difficulties, fix a value of k -- say, 4 -- and get
so basically we notice two things: there are four primes in each term, and the coefficients are the binomial coefficients, which are familiar to most students.
One doesn't take the fourth derivative of a product that often; but even knowing that might be preferable to
Also, one can expand a rule like this to products of more than two terms; we have
Again, this doesn't come up that often, and I don't want to try to write it for derivatives of products of an arbitrary number of factors. Still, the idea is fairly natural but how many freshmen would even know that
I really don't know the answer to this -- but products of three factors are not incredibly rare, and the rule here is quite simple -- just take the derivative of each factor in turn, and sum up the results. There's even a nice "physical" interpretation of it -- how much does the volume of a three-dimensional box change as we change its various dimensions?
The coefficients seem kind of arbitrary, though; the point of Hardy's paper is that if things get recast in terms of partial derivatives they go away, both here and in Faa di Bruno's formula for the derivative of a composition of functions. One way to think of this is to imagine that, in the product rule, we have a "prime 1", a "prime 2", and so on up to a "prime k" if we're taking kth derivatives; we attach these primes to the variables in all possible ways, sum up the results, and then "collapse" them by reading all the primes to just mean ordinary differentiation.
Hardy, Michael, "Combinatorics of Partial Derivatives", Electronic
Journal of Combinatorics, 13 (2006), #R1.