# Chemistry - How does the derivative of concentration make sense?

There are two ways to look at this. In the first, we note that all thermodynamic and kinetic analyses rely on the assumption of very large populations of molecules. The curve of concentration vs time is made of discrete points, but the large population ensures that the change in concentration resulting from addition or subtraction of one molecule is so small that it can be treated as infinitesimal. Thus, we can create a smooth curve by interpolating between points, and the result will be continuous and differentiable. From a practical standpoint, any experiment to determine the concentration will result in discrete points separated by much much more than the change of one molecule, so we are implicitly assuming that the behavior between points can be treated as a well-behaved continuous curve.

The second, and perhaps more mathematically rigorous, view is that we never differentiate the actual concentration v time "curve". Instead, we are claiming that the change in concentration over time can be represented by a function which is continuous and differentiable. The only difference between this and the first view is semantic. Does $[A](t)$ refer to the actual concentration of A or to a function that is a proxy for the concentration? It doesn't matter.

Either way, the key point is that traditional kinetic and thermodynamic analyses assume a population large enough that the discrete behavior can reasonably be treated as equivalent to a continuous function.

[On a side note, there are those who would extend your argument to the $dt$ part of the derivative, as there is no proof that time is infinitely divisible, but that's a discussion for another time and place]