Chapter 1

Calculus: No Big Deal


Bullet Calculus — it’s just souped-up regular math

Bullet Zooming in is the key

Bullet Delving into the derivative: It’s a rate or a slope

Bullet Investigating the integral — addition for experts

In this chapter, I answer the question “What is calculus?” in plain English and give you real-world examples of how it’s used. Then I introduce you to the two big ideas in calculus: differentiation and integration. Finally, I explain why calculus works. After reading this chapter, you will understand what calculus is all about.

So What Is Calculus Already?

Calculus is basically just very advanced algebra and geometry. In one sense, it’s not even a new subject — it takes the ordinary rules of algebra and geometry and tweaks them so that they can be used on more complicated problems. (The rub, of course, is that darn other sense in which it is a new and more difficult subject.)

Look at Figure 1-1. On the left is a man pushing a crate up a straight incline. On the right, the man is pushing the same crate up a curving incline. The problem, in both cases, is to determine the ...

Get Calculus Essentials For Dummies now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.