Course Introduction

Time: 122 hours

College Credit Recommended

Free Certificate
Calculus is among the most important and useful developments of human thought. Even though it is over 300 years old, it is still considered the beginning and cornerstone of modern mathematics. It is a wonderful, beautiful, and useful set of ideas and techniques. You will see the fundamental ideas of this course over and over again in future courses in mathematics as well as in all of the sciences (like physics, biologicy, social sciences, economics, and engineering). However, calculus is an intellectual step up from your previous mathematics courses. Many of the ideas you will gain in this course are more carefully defined and have both a functional and a graphical meaning. Some of the algorithms are quite complicated, and in many cases, you will need to make a decision as to which appropriate algorithm to use. Calculus offers a huge variety of applications and many of them will be saved for courses you might take in the future.
This course is divided into five learning sections, or units, plus a reference section, or appendix. The course begins with a unit that provides a review of algebra specifically designed to help and prepare you for the study of calculus. The second unit discusses functions, graphs, limits, and continuity. Understanding limits could not be more important, as that topic really begins the study of calculus. The third unit introduces and explains derivatives. With derivatives, we are now ready to handle all of those things that change mentioned above. The fourth unit makes visual sense of derivatives by discussing derivatives and graphs. The fifth unit introduces and explains antiderivatives and definite integrals. Finally, the reference section provides a large collection of reference facts, geometry, and trigonometry that will assist you in solving calculus problems long after the course is over.
First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me in this course". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.

Unit 1: Preview and Review
While a first course in calculus can strike you as something new to learn, it is not comparable to learning a foreign language where everything seems different. Calculus still depends on most of the things you learned in algebra, and the true genius of Isaac Newton was to realize that he could get answers for this something new by relying on simple and known things like graphs, geometry, and algebra. There is a need to review those concepts in this unit, where a graph can reinforce the adage that a picture is worth one thousand words. This unit starts right off with one of the most important steps in mastering problem solving: Have a clear and precise statement of what the problem really is about.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.
Unit 2: Functions, Graphs, Limits, and Continuity
The concepts of continuity and the meaning of a limit form the foundation for all of calculus. Not only must you understand both of these concepts individually, but you must understand how they relate to each other. They are a kind of Siamese twins in calculus problems, as we always hope they show up together.
A student taking a calculus course during a winter term came up with the best analogy that I have ever heard for tying these concepts together: The weather was raining ice  the kind of weather in which no human being in his right mind would be driving a car. When he stepped out on the front porch to see whether the icerain had stopped, he could not believe his eyes when he saw the headlights of an automobile heading down his road, which ended in a dead end at a brick house. When the car hit the brakes, the student's intuitive mind concluded that at the rate at which the velocity was decreasing (assuming continuity), there was no way the car could stop in time and it would hit the house (the limiting value). Oops. He forgot that there was a gravel stretch at the end of the road and the car stopped many feet from the brick house. The gravel represented a discontinuity in his calculations, so his limiting value was not correct.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 19 hours.
Unit 3: Derivatives
In this unit, we start to see calculus become more visible when abstract ideas such as a derivative and a limit appear as parts of slopes, lines, and curves. Then, there are circles, ellipses, and parabolas that are even more geometric, so what was previously an abstract concept can now be something we can see. Nothing makes calculus more tangible than to recognize that the first derivative of an automobile's position is its velocity and the second derivative of that position is its acceleration. We are at the very point that started Isaac Newton on his quest to master this mathematics, what we now call calculus, when he recognized that the second derivative was precisely what he needed to formulate his Second Law of Motion , where is the force on any object, is its mass, and is the second derivative of its position. Thus, he could connect all the variables of a moving object mathematically, including its acceleration, velocity, and position, and he could explain what really makes motion happen.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 42 hours.
Unit 4: Derivatives and Graphs
A visual person should find this unit extremely helpful in understanding the concepts of calculus, as a major emphasis in this unit is to display those concepts graphically. That allows us to see what, so far, we could only imagine. Graphs help us to visualize ideas that are hard enough to conceptualize  like limits going to infinity but still having a finite meaning, or asymptotes  lines that approach each other but never quite get there.
Graphs can also be used in a kind of reverse by displaying something for which we should take another mathematical look. It is hard enough to imagine a limit going to infinity, and therefore never quite getting there, but the graph can tell us that it has a finite value, when it finally does get there, so we had better take a serious look at it mathematically.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 29 hours.
Unit 5: The Integral
While previous units dealt with differential calculus, this unit starts the study of integral calculus. As you may recall, differential calculus began with the development of the intuition behind the notion of a tangent line. Integral calculus begins with understanding the intuition behind the notion of an area. In fact, we will be able to extend the notion of the area and apply these more general areas to a variety of problems. This will allow us to unify differential and integral calculus through the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. Historically, this theorem marked the beginning of modern mathematics and is extremely important in all applications.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 32 hours.
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