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Change and Motion: Calculus Made Clear, 2nd Edition

Change and Motion: Calculus Made Clear, 2nd Edition

Professor Michael Starbird Ph.D.
The University of Texas at Austin
Course No.  177
Course No.  177
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Course Overview

About This Course

24 lectures  |  31 minutes per lecture

One of the greatest achievements of the human mind is calculus. It justly deserves a place in the pantheon of our accomplishments with Shakespeare's plays, Beethoven's symphonies, and Einstein's theory of relativity.

In fact, most of the differences in the way we experience life now and the way we experienced it at the beginning of the 17th century emerged because of technical advances that rely on calculus. Calculus is a beautiful idea exposing the rational workings of the world; it is part of our intellectual heritage.

The True Genius of Calculus Is Simple

Calculus, separately invented by Newton and Leibniz, is one of the most fruitful strategies for analyzing our world ever devised. Calculus has made it possible to build bridges that span miles of river, travel to the moon, and predict patterns of population change.

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One of the greatest achievements of the human mind is calculus. It justly deserves a place in the pantheon of our accomplishments with Shakespeare's plays, Beethoven's symphonies, and Einstein's theory of relativity.

In fact, most of the differences in the way we experience life now and the way we experienced it at the beginning of the 17th century emerged because of technical advances that rely on calculus. Calculus is a beautiful idea exposing the rational workings of the world; it is part of our intellectual heritage.

The True Genius of Calculus Is Simple

Calculus, separately invented by Newton and Leibniz, is one of the most fruitful strategies for analyzing our world ever devised. Calculus has made it possible to build bridges that span miles of river, travel to the moon, and predict patterns of population change.

Yet for all its computational power, calculus is the exploration of just two ideas—the derivative and the integral—both of which arise from a commonsense analysis of motion. All a 1,300-page calculus textbook holds, Professor Michael Starbird asserts, are those two basic ideas and 1,298 pages of examples, variations, and applications.

Many of us exclude ourselves from the profound insights of calculus because we didn't continue in mathematics. This great achievement remains a closed door. But Professor Starbird can open that door and make calculus accessible to all.

Why You Didn't Get It the First Time

Professor Starbird is committed to correcting the bewildering way that the beauty of calculus was hidden from many of us in school.

He firmly believes that calculus does not require a complicated vocabulary or notation to understand it. Indeed, the purpose of these lectures is to explain clearly the concepts of calculus and to help you see that "calculus is a crowning intellectual achievement of humanity that all intelligent people can appreciate, enjoy, and understand."

He adds: "The deep concepts of calculus can be understood without the technical background traditionally required in calculus courses. Indeed, frequently the technicalities in calculus courses completely submerge the striking, salient insights that compose the true significance of the subject.

"In this course, the concepts and insights at the heart of calculus take center stage. The central ideas are absolutely meaningful and understandable to all intelligent people—regardless of the level or age of their previous mathematical experience. Historical events and everyday action form the foundation for this excursion through calculus."

Two Simple Ideas

After the introduction, the course begins with a discussion of a car driving down a road. As Professor Starbird discusses speed and position, the two foundational concepts of calculus arise naturally, and their relationship to each other becomes clear and convincing.

Professor Starbird presents and explores the fundamental ideas, then shows how they can be understood and applied in many settings.

Expanding the Insight

Calculus originated in our desire to understand motion, which is change in position over time. Professor Starbird then explains how calculus has created powerful insight into everything that changes over time. Thus, the fundamental insight of calculus unites the way we see economics, astronomy, population growth, engineering, and even baseball. Calculus is the mathematical structure that lies at the core of a world of seemingly unrelated issues.

As you follow the intellectual development of calculus, your appreciation of its inner workings will deepen, and your skill in seeing how calculus can solve problems will increase. You will examine the relationships between algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. You will graduate from considering the linear motion of a car on a straight road to motion on a two-dimensional plane or even the motion of a flying object in three-dimensional space.

Designed for Nonmathematicians

Every step is in English rather than "mathese." Formulas are important, certainly, but the course takes the approach that every equation is in fact also a sentence that can be understood, and solved, in English.

This course is crafted to make the key concepts and triumphs of calculus accessible to nonmathematicians. It requires only a basic acquaintance with beginning high-school level algebra and geometry. This series is not designed as a college calculus course; rather, it will help you see calculus around you in the everyday world.

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24 Lectures
  • 1
    Two Ideas, Vast Implications
    Calculus is a subject of enormous importance and historical impact. It provides a dynamic view of the world and is an invaluable tool for measuring change. Calculus is applicable in many situations, from the trajectory of a baseball to changes in the Dow Jones average or elephant populations. Yet, at its core, calculus is the study of two ideas about motion and change. x
  • 2
    Stop Sign Crime—The First Idea of Calculus—The Derivative
    The example of a car moving down a straight road is a simple and effective way to study motion. An everyday scenario that involves running a stop sign and the use of a camera illustrates the first fundamental idea of calculus: the derivative. x
  • 3
    Another Car, Another Crime—The Second Idea of Calculus—The Integral
    You are kidnapped and driven away in a car. You can't see out the window, but you are able to shoot a videotape of the speedometer. The process by which you can use information about speed to compute the exact location of the car at the end of one hour is the second idea of calculus: the integral. x
  • 4
    The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus
    The moving car scenario illustrates the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. This states that the derivative and the integral are two sides of the same coin. The insight of calculus, the Fundamental Theorem creates a method for finding a value that would otherwise be hard or impossible to get, even with a computer. x
  • 5
    Visualizing the Derivative—Slopes
    Change is so fundamental to our vision of the world that we view it as the driving force in our understanding of physics, biology, economics—virtually anything. Graphs are a way to visualize the derivative's ability to analyze and quantify change. x
  • 6
    Derivatives the Easy Way—Symbol Pushing
    The derivative lets us understand how a change in one variable affects a dependent quantity. We have studied this relationship with respect to time. But the derivative can be abstracted to many other dependencies, such as that of the area of a circle on the length of its radius, or supply or demand on price. x
  • 7
    Abstracting the Derivative—Circles and Belts
    One of the most useful ways to consider derivatives is to view them algebraically. We can find the derivative of a function expressed algebraically by using a mechanical process, bypassing the infinite process of taking derivatives at each point. x
  • 8
    Circles, Pyramids, Cones, and Spheres
    The description of moving objects is one of the most direct applications of calculus. Analyzing the trajectories and speeds of projectiles has an illustrious history. This includes Galileo's famous experiments in Pisa and Newton's theories that allow us to compute the path and speed of projectiles, from baseballs to planets. x
  • 9
    Archimedes and the Tractrix
    Optimization problems—for example, maximizing the area that can be enclosed by a certain amount of fencing—often bring students to tears. But they illustrate questions of enormous importance in the real world. The strategy for solving these problems involves an intriguing application of derivatives. x
  • 10
    The Integral and the Fundamental Theorem
    Formulas for areas and volumes can be deduced by dividing such objects as cones and spheres into thin pieces. Ancient examples of this method were precursors to the modern idea of the integral. x
  • 11
    Abstracting the Integral—Pyramids and Dams
    Archimedes devised an ingenious method that foreshadowed the idea of the integral in that it involved slicing a sphere into thin sections. Integrals provide effective techniques for computing volumes of solids and areas of surfaces. The image of an onion is useful in investigating how a solid ball can be viewed as layers of surfaces. x
  • 12
    Buffon’s Needle or π from Breadsticks
    The integral involves breaking intervals of change into small pieces and then adding them up. We use Leibniz's notation for the integral because the long S shape reminds us that the definition of the integral involves sums. x
  • 13
    Achilles, Tortoises, Limits, and Continuity
    The integral's strategy of adding up little pieces solves a variety of problems, such as finding the volume of a pyramid or the total pressure on the face of a dam. x
  • 14
    Calculators and Approximations
    The Fundamental Theorem links the integral and the derivative. It shortcuts the integral's infinite process of summing and replaces it by a single subtraction. x
  • 15
    The Best of All Possible Worlds—Optimization
    Calculus is useful in many branches of mathematics. The 18th-century French scientist Georges Louis Leclerc Compte de Buffon used calculus and breadsticks to perform an experiment in probability. His experiment showed how random events can ultimately lead to an exact number. x
  • 16
    Economics and Architecture
    Zeno's Arrow Paradox concerns itself with the fact that an arrow traveling to a target must cover half the total distance, then half the remaining distance, etc. How does it ever get there? The concept of limit solves the problem. x
  • 17
    Galileo, Newton, and Baseball
    The real numbers in toto constitute a smooth, seamless continuum. Viewing the world as continuous in time and space allows us to make mathematical models that are helpful and predictive. x
  • 18
    Getting off the Line—Motion in Space
    Zeno's Arrow Paradox shows us that an infinite addition problem (1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + . . .) can result in a single number: 1. Similarly, it is possible to approximate values such as π or the square root of 2 by adding up the first few hundred terms of infinite sum. Calculators use this method when we push the "sin" or square root keys. x
  • 19
    Mountain Slopes and Tangent Planes
    We have seen how to analyze change and dependency according to one varying quantity. But many processes and things in nature vary according to several features. The steepness of a mountain slope is one example. To describe these real-world situations, we must use planes instead of lines to capture the philosophy of the derivative. x
  • 20
    Several Variables—Volumes Galore
    After developing the ideas of calculus for cars moving in a straight line, we have gained enough expertise to apply the same reasoning to anything moving in space—from mosquitoes to planets. x
  • 21
    The Fundamental Theorem Extended
    Calculus plays a central role in describing much of physics. It is integral to the description of planetary motion, mechanics, fluid dynamics, waves, thermodynamics, electricity, optics, and more. It can describe the physics of sound, but can't explain why we enjoy Bach. x
  • 22
    Fields of Arrows—Differential Equations
    Many money matters are prime examples of rates of change. The difference between getting rich and going broke is often determined by our ability to predict future trends. The perspective and methods of calculus are helpful tools in attempts to decide such questions as what production levels of a good will maximize profit. x
  • 23
    Owls, Rats, Waves, and Guitars
    Whether looking at people or pachyderms, the models for predicting future populations all involve the rates of population change. Calculus is well suited to this task. However, the discrete version of the Verhulst Model is an example of chaotic behavior—an application for which calculus may not be appropriate. x
  • 24
    Calculus Everywhere
    There are limits to the realms of applicability of calculus, but it would be difficult to exaggerate its importance and influence in our lives. When considered in all of its aspects, calculus truly has been—and will continue to be—one of the most effective and influential strategies for analyzing our world that has ever been devised. x

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Michael Starbird
Ph.D. Michael Starbird
The University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Michael Starbird is Professor of Mathematics and University Distinguished Teaching Professor at The University of Texas at Austin, where he has been teaching since 1974. He received his B.A. from Pomona College in 1970 and his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1974. Professor Starbird's textbook, The Heart of Mathematics: An Invitation to Effective Thinking, coauthored with Edward B. Burger, won a 2001 Robert W. Hamilton Book Award. Professors Starbird and Burger also collaborated on Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz: Making Light of Weighty Ideas, published in 2005. Professor Starbird has won many teaching awards, including the Mathematical Association of America's 2007 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo National Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics, which is the association's most prestigious teaching award. It is awarded nationally to 3 people from its membership of 27,000. Professor Starbird is interested in bringing authentic understanding of significant ideas in mathematics to people who are not necessarily mathematically oriented. He has developed and taught an acclaimed class that presents higher-level mathematics to liberal arts students.

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Reviews

Rated 4.1 out of 5 by 63 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Insight and interesting applications of Calculus This course delivers exactly what it promises. It will give you an understanding of differential and integral calculus. If you would like to know what calculus is good for, learn a little of its historical development and see some applications you will enjoy Dr. Starbird's course. While it will help you get the big picture while taking a traditional calculus course it is not a tutorial or help with solving problems. This would be particularly helpful for people who aren't that interested in math but want to know about calculus to better understand physics or microeconomics. It would be a great companion for the new electronics course, the probability or statistics courses or any of the physics lectures. Although I have used calculus for years, my understanding of the Fundamental theorem was enhanced by his approach to explaining it. Lecture 8 on circles and geometric solids was very informative. I have studied Buffon's Needle twice from two professors and two universities and while I could do the calculations and get an 'A' I never really understood how it works. Dr. Starbird made this perfectly clear. The big picture approach gave me an intuitive understanding of the concept to complement the theory. The last few lectures go into some very advanced territory for a first class. Entire classes are taught in multivariable caculus, differential equations and Fourier series so enjoy the high level view of these topics but don't expect to master them in one half hour lecture. I enjoy Dr. Starbird's laid back style and his sense of humor very much. I quickly grow tired of the meaningless hand gestures and fake enthusiasm of some over-trained speakers. It's refreshing to learn from someone who acts like a real person while sharing his knowledge and passion for math. July 26, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Best presentation of Calculus I've seen I've studied Calculus with the Open University in England, as well as going through a couple of DIY books. This course not only taught me, better, what I already new, it taught me why it all works from the ground up. I found the Professor to be extremely watchable, clear, and concise and his presentation to be excellent. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who needs or wishes to learn Calculus and its applications. June 2, 2014
Rated 1 out of 5 by May I please have my money back . . . Poor sense of humor, terrible style of story telling, not engaging. Full of mumbo jumbo, boring quotes. I Know Professor Starbird is doing his best, however, unknowing adding complexity and un-intentionally making the subject most boring - so painful to sit thru that it hurts. I was so excited with the descriptions " Calculus Made Clear " oh dear what a let down. I regret - do not recommend. April 20, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Excellent introduction to calculus Job done! As the title promises, the professor explains it all, clearly, succinctly, and in an engaging, amusing manner. A solid course, easy to recommend, particularly for those with no prior knowledge of the world of calculus. Strongly recommended. February 20, 2014
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