If there’s one thing that math teachers love saying, it is that mathematics has an infinite amount of applications and is encountered everywhere – much to the dread of their students. Over the past few weeks, as students of DP1 started learning calculus, they couldn’t be more right.
Calculus, at its heart, asks a simple question: how much does something change at a period of time? Or, in mathematical terms, what is the instantaneous rate of change of a quantity? And that quantity can be, quite literally, anything – the growth of the population, the height of a spacecraft, the spread of AIDS, how much you’re enjoying this article – calculus has essentially invaded physics, biology, sociology, epidemiology, and every other field of scientific endeavour.
In our classes, we studied a central aspect of calculus – the derivative – which helps us find the rate of change of any mathematical function or model. We also studied and applied various rules that help us find the derivative, such as the chain rule and the product rule. Armed with our newfound knowledge, we applied these concepts to solve problems related to optimization.
Personally, I felt more enthused than anxious as we ventured into an entirely novel area of mathematics. Calculus was – and still is – such a strange and perplexing concept to us students, but the endless list of its potential applications was what ultimately intrigued me about it.
Ishan Kanade, DP 1