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Learn calculus with online courses and programs

Calculus is the gateway to advanced mathematics. As one of the foundations of modern scientific practice, it’s a vital tool for engineers of all kinds. Learn calculus with online courses delivered through edX.

What is calculus?

Calculus is a branch of mathematics that studies rates of change and areas around curves. From animations to software applications, calculus and its formulas can be found all around us.

Differential calculus involves derivatives, which measure a function’s rate of change at a specific point.Footnote 1 For example, stock analysts can use derivatives to speculate whether a certain stock will rise or fall in a specific time period. 

By contrast, integral calculus involves the measurement of infinitesimal quantities.Footnote 2 An integral represents an area under a curve on a graph. You can use integral calculus to determine the length of cable needed to connect two electrical substations, with distance represented by a certain function. In a sense, derivatives and integrals are opposites. Together, they form the field of calculus.

In the late 17th century, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz introduced the concept of calculus independently of one another. Newton’s laws of motion and gravitation are two popular examples of the earliest concepts that led to the development of calculus. Calculus was continually developed over the following centuries, laying the foundation for modern mathematical explorations and physics as we know it.

Today, calculus has countless applications across disciplines and is commonly used in the hard sciences and technical fields such as chemical or environmental engineering. Employers need candidates with strong calculus skills in a variety of industries, including:

  • Medicine: applies calculus formulas to understand relationships between patients and drug absorption, measure organ function, or analyze images. 

  • Biological research: relies on calculations to project the growth or decay of bacteria colonies, or to monitor how a patient’s temperature changes as a direct result of a particular medication.

  • Economics: helps lenders calculate the amount of interest to be paid on a loan, business owners increase profits, or manufacturers understand how work hours impact productivity.Footnote 3

  • Architecture: uses calculus to create scale models, design a symmetrical structure, or achieve balance.Footnote 4

If you want to work in a field that requires knowledge of this branch of mathematics, an online calculus course can help you expand your mathematical skills.

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Calculus course curriculum

A beginner calculus course may introduce different types of functions, such as trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions. These math essentials may also be covered in pre-calculus classes. Topic-specific calculus courses may delve deeper into differential calculus, explaining the concept of derivatives and exploring how to find derivatives and limits for various types of functions. Depending on your field of interest, your studies may also lead to courses in integral calculus, drawing on the fundamental theorem of calculus to illustrate how derivatives and integrals relate to each other.  Learners may also study calculus applications in engineering and special functions. edX offers a variety of calculus basics courses and advanced learning options to suit diverse backgrounds and career paths.

 Explore calculus jobs

Different careers in the hard sciences and engineering use calculus. Physicists, chemical engineers, environmental engineers, electrical engineers, aerospace engineers, economists, and software developers all use this branch of mathematics to perform essential functions.Footnote 5 Many of these jobs often require additional training, certifications, or education beyond an online calculus tutorial. Consider whether a bachelor’s degree, master’s program or a boot camp can help you build the necessary mathematical skills these roles require. Specific options for your education may include a bachelor’s in data science or even a master’s in data science. For a shorter course of study, a data analytics boot camp may be what you are looking for.

How to become a chemical engineer online

Chemical engineers are just one of the many positions that use calculus to perform the duties associated with their jobs. To become a chemical engineer, you need a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering or a closely related field, such as chemistry or bioengineering. Additionally, some employers may look more favorably on candidates with a master’s degree in chemical engineering.Footnote 6 In addition to having strong knowledge of calculus, you’ll also need a solid foundation in chemistry, physics, and engineering principles. One of your first steps to becoming a chemical engineer can be to learn calculus online, along with other subjects. Working toward a bachelor’s or master’s degree online requires a significant time commitment, but it can be a rewarding experience, opening the door for new career opportunities. 

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