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6 Practical Reasons Why You Should Learn Calculus

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Does the content in your calculus class seem too conceptual and out of touch with the real world? 

Surprisingly, the mathematical formulas that you learn in calculus underpin a large part of today's technology and are essential to many STEM careers. Learn six things you can do with calculus. 

1. Build Algorithms

Our digital world is built on algorithms. It determines which search results we see on Google, which posts we see on social media, which route the GPS uses, and so much more. Embedded within each algorithm is calculus equations that help compute the best results for the user. 

The scale, scope, and evolving nature of these algorithms make them challenging to develop. For example, Cornell mathematicians simulated what type of calculations would be used to search a very small internet consisting of just four webpages. Their Mathematics of Google used concepts of calculus such as continuity of functions. In the case of machine learning, gradient descent algorithms rely heavily on derivatives

2. Perform Public Health Modeling

This year, we all learned pretty quickly how to understand the data about COVID-19 cases, R0 to understand spread, and infection modeling to understand how behavior affects cases. To crunch the numbers for virus modeling, experts used advanced math, including equations for exponential growth. This is combined with another branch of mathematics, statistics. 

Ultimately, the math used in health modeling drives public policy decisions, personal health choices, and healthcare operations including estimates of how many ventilators a hospital will need. It may be a stretch to say that calculus saves lives, but when facing an infectious disease, complex mathematical modeling certainly helps to keep people safe. 

3. Figure Out How Much Gas Is Left in Your Tank

The perfect real-life calculus problem came from a truck driver with a broken fuel gauge. He called into the radio show Car Talk asking about using a dipstick to determine how much fuel was left in the cylindrical gas tank. If he knew the height within the curve, how would he calculate the volume?

The radio hosts were both MIT grads, and yet they struggled to do the calculations while on the air. After all, multivariable formulas are hard. 

4. Design Buildings and Structures

Many areas of engineering use calculus, but unlike formulas for fluid dynamics or flight trajectories, structural engineering makes calculus equations concrete and visible. 

For example, suspension bridges are a well-known example of the curves that you commonly have graphed out in your math homework. During bridge design, math is used not only to determine the shape of the bridge but also to ascertain its load-bearing capabilities. 

5. Develop Self-driving Cars

Autonomous vehicles rely on dynamic equations to make decisions. After gathering essential info via a network of sensors, the onboard processor uses mathematical programming to decide when to change lanes, brake, accelerate or other actions. 

While these complex calculations are a part of the future of driving, mathematics has been important to car manufacturing for a long time. Mathematical models are used to calculate the tolerance measurements for how a door opens and closes. Math is even used to determine the curvature of the car body. Listen to a few Ford employees talk about math, how they learned it, and how they use it in their jobs.

6. Graduate College

Even if you don't plan on doing math calculations in your daily life, many college degrees have a math requirement. So whether you want a career in public relations, website design, or something else, you'll still need to make it through college calculus to achieve your goals. 

The unfortunate truth is that 34 percent of college students fail Calculus 1. However, new digital learning tools can help. 

OneClass Booster Classes provide learning solutions that can help you understand tough subjects. The platform uses AI to optimize lessons for your skills and competencies. This helps you spend more time practicing the topics you struggle with and accelerate through topics you understand. 
Find out how you can use OneClass Booster Classes to earn college credit or to support your existing classwork.

image attribution: Drobot Dean -


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