What is Calculus?

man and woman sitting on chairs

Calculus is a branch of mathematics that deals with rates of change and slopes of curves. It can seem abstract and difficult at first, but there are a number of ways to make the concepts more accessible and fun. Here are a few examples:

Imagine you’re on a roller coaster – Calculus is all about finding the rate at which things change, and a roller coaster is a great real-life example of this concept. As you go up and down the hills of a roller coaster, you’re experiencing acceleration (a change in speed), and calculus can help us understand and quantify that acceleration.

Think of a GPS device – GPS devices use calculus to calculate the shortest distance between two points. In other words, they’re finding the quickest route based on the speed and direction of the vehicle. By using calculus, your GPS can determine the optimum speed and direction to get you to your destination as quickly as possible.

Picture a pizza – Calculus is all about finding the slope of a curve, and what better way to visualize a curve than a pizza? If you have a circular pizza, you can imagine that the slope of the pizza is constantly changing as you move from the center to the edges.

Consider a ball being thrown in the air – The path of a ball being thrown in the air is a curve, and calculus can help us understand the velocity (speed and direction) of the ball at any given point in time. This is useful for many things, such as determining how far a ball will travel, or how high it will go.