The Hidden Purpose of Calculus


“A passion for calculus can unlock new words. But honestly, I mostly play games on my TI-86. Have you played Dope Wars?” — Isaac Newton

Cynthia Lan, Photojournalist

We always hear that calculus can solve problems and we can’t live without it, but what does this subject really mean?


“Calculus is not necessary at all unless you want to be an engineer,” Jason Huynh (9)  argues. “I believe calculus is not necessary for your everyday life in the long run,” Ms. Rivera, the substitute math teacher at YLHS said. Personally, Maggie Wang (10) described that “it depends. If students are interested in math and science it is necessary; otherwise, basic math will be enough.” If Calculus is not essential for modern people, why is it still considered to be an important AP class or even a required class in some places to graduate high school?


First and foremost, calculus can help students pursue careers in the “…physics, computer science, mathematics, and engineering” area, explained Marilyn Anderson, a member of the PYLUSD Board of Education in 2020. AP calculus can help students “stand out in their college application for acceptance and some universities require calculus as a requirement to apply for admissions.”


If math can be likened to a puzzle, then calculus would be an important puzzle piece.

— Ethan Hayashi (9)


On the other hand, discovering challenging math questions can advance the way you think at work or in normal life. “If math can be likened to a puzzle, then calculus would be an important puzzle piece,” Ethan Hayashi (9) added. Solving calculus is like when people are making a plan. Suppose you need to finish reading a book in a week, but your schedule is super full so you may not finish this in time; you can use the ‘calculus of thinking’ to plan this. If this book has 252 pages, and you have 7 days to complete reading it, you can divide it into 42 pages or more per day, so you can complete it by the 7th day. With this plan, you still have 1 extra day to finish up the book or do some review. 


Calculus problems are the same way. For example, to calculate the perimeter of an irregular shaped watermelon, you can cut the pill of the watermelon into numerous square pieces; the smaller you cut, when you add them together, it will be closer to the actual perimeter of the irregular shaped watermelon. 


When students are debating if they need to take calculus or not, “first, students should look at their career goals and the colleges they want to attend,” states Marilyn Anderson. Next, she strongly recommends going through a conversation “with parents or guardians, math teachers, and school counselors.” They will always “…assist with pointing out the pros and cons of calculus placement in high school and if calculus is the right choice for the student.”