Calculus for the Aspiring Mind

Photo by Andrés Monroy-Hernández on Flickr

Photo by Andrés Monroy-Hernández on Flickr, license CC BY-SA.

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Two MIT mathematics professors have designed a new online series of short introductory calculus courses for high school students and recent graduates. The first of these MITx on edX courses, Calculus 1A: Differentiation, starts on June 2.

These courses—or modules—are similar to what is taught in MIT’s on-campus introductory calculus course, but they are redesigned for a more forgiving pace. As on campus, students apply what they learn to real-world problems, such as how fast a plane should fly to minimize fuel use and how accurate a GPS positioning system really is.

The courses are taught by Professors David Jerison and Gigliola Staffilani. Students will learn how to:

  • evaluate limits graphically and numerically
  • interpret the derivative geometrically
  • calculate the derivative of any function
  • sketch many functions by hand
  • make linear and quadratic approximations of functions
  • apply derivatives to maximize and minimize functions and find related rates

Professor Staffilani is Associate Department Head of the MIT Mathematics Department. Professor Jerison will be familiar to the many OCW users who’ve visited his courses 18.01SC Single Variable Calculus and 18.02 Multivariable Calculus (taught with Professor Arthur Mattuck).

The second MITx on edX module Calculus 1B: Integration will start in Fall 2015; Calculus 1C: Coordinate Systems & Infinite Series will start in early 2016.

2 thoughts on “Calculus for the Aspiring Mind

  1. I am 48 year old middle school science teacher looking to “sharpen” my mind. I have a background from the US Navy in electronics (1984-1993 – 8 deployments, 2 combat theaters). Have not done calc in 20 years but would like to learn quantum mechanics and have heard calc is essential. My goal is to get to relativity.
    1. Is it too late to join the course and
    2. is the course way over my head?


    • It’s not too late to join this course. With some calculus in your history, you should find this course quite doable and effective as a refresher. Be sure to check out the many OCW calculus resources, too. Please do jump in and try it out, and let us know how it works out.


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