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Intuitive Calculus Lessons


Hi! My name is Pablo. I created this site to help people like you learn calculus. The main feature of my
site is that I like to focus on the intuitive understanding of the concepts, so my explanations are not
always formal.

I think that my approach can be really helpful for you.

Whether you are at high-school or college taking a calculus course, preparing for a standardized test, or
self-studying calculus just for fun, you can tremendously benefit from this website. You can use it to
complement your textbook or course material, or use it as your main learning resource.

Learning calculus takes some time and dedication, but I hope I can help in making it a rewarding and fun
experience.

Where to Begin?
As a first step, make sure you subscribe to receive my Free 10-Part Course. Do this through the sign
up button located at the left column of this page.

This is a 10-part course that contains the main ideas, concepts and problem-solving techniques in
Calculus. By subscribing you will make sure you receive more content from me that will make you
succeed in learning Calculus.

After that you may visit different pages on the site. This site covers all the topics in a first calculus
course, and it is expanding to cover topics beyond that.

If you are already taking a course in school, you can immediately visit the topics you need some
reinforcing in. To find what you need you can use the search function located at the left column of this
and every page.

If you have the time, I recommend you to visit even the pages about topics you think you understood
well. The intuitive approach that I use may help you gain another perspective, or reinforce an idea that
you aren't very sure about.

Again, be sure to sign up on the right column to receive my free 10 -Part Intuitive Calculus Course. This
is the best way not to loose yourself in the huge amount of content available.

If you have no clue about where to start, follow the sequence:

1. Functions: This topic is not usually covered in a calculus course. Understanding functions and
knowing how to deal with them is essential for a real understanding of calculus, though.
2. Limits: This is the topic most calculus courses start with. The idea of limits is the basic underlying
theme in calculus. Spend some time on these pages if you want to deeply understand this idea.
3. Derivatives: The derivative, together with the integral, form the inseparable duo in calculus. The
derivative can be seen as a generalized slope, or rate of change. It is essential in all sciences.
4. Integrals: The integral generalizes the idea of area. As the derivative, it is essential for all sciences.
Immerse yourself in these pages to understand this concept and get some practice solving problems.

In all these pages you will learn about these concepts by first forming an intuition, then solving common
problems that apply these concepts.

Who am I?
My name is Pablo Antuna and I'm just a guy passionate about maths and teaching. I decided to create
this site so I can teach calculus the way I wish I had been taught it. You can learn more about me in
the about page.

Intuitive Calculus Blog

The Intuitive Calculus Blog keeps you up-to-date with all additions and changes to the intuitive-
calculus.com Web site. Subscribe here.

Mathematical Functions: An Easy Introduction


Mathematical functions are the first things you need to understand to master Calculus. The key
is to remember that they define the "connection" between two variables.

Limits and Continuity: An Intuitive Introduction


In this page we try to intuitively understand the concepts of limits and continuity. The basic
ideas presented here form the foundation of a deep understanding of calculus.

An Intuitive Introduction to Derivatives


In this page I'll give a first intuitive introduction to derivatives. We will form an intuition of
what it is, and learn with examples to solve any derivatives problem.

Integrals Intuition and Examples


Many people say integrals are the most difficult topic in Calculus. Here we'll demystify them.
You'll find the intuition behind the definition and plenty of examples.

Contact Me
Any comments, suggestions, feedback, request? Let's get in touch...

About Me
About me, creator of intuitive-calculus.com

Calculus Help
From the professional tutors on LearnOk.com.
Understanding Mathematical Functions
Mathematical functions are the first things you need to understand to master calculus. Most people that
take this subject learn how to solve problems like a machine, but do not grasp this essential concept.

So, first things first. What are we talking about here? In calculus, we study quantities that change.

Quantities that change are called variables.

For example, temperature is a variable. It changes throughout the day. The speed you drive your car is a
variable.

In fact, almost everything in nature is a variable.

This is why calculus can be so fascinating and useful. It can be applied to any quantity that changes.

In nature, we not only see quantities that change. We also see that some quantities are connected to one
another in some way.

For example, we see that it is hotter during the day. During the night it is colder. To understand better
this connection between things we invented mathematical functions.

"If two variables are connected in some way, so that for each value of one corresponds one value of
the other, we say that one is a function of the other."

Read that statement again!

It doesn't matter how that connection is expressed. As you'll see, a function can be repres ented by an
equation, a graph or a table.

Example: Area Function


Consider a square.

We know that the area of this square is:


If L starts to change, that is, it becomes a variable, A also changes. If L becomes bigger, A becomes
bigger.

Do you recognize what that means? It means that A is a function of L! That equation gives us the
instructions to obtain the area, given the length of the side.

Mathematical functions that are defined by equations like this one are very useful. In fact, these are the
functions we will mostly focus on.

There are many ways to express the same function, though. For example:

This table expresses the same function. We can even graph the function like this:

What am I trying to show you with these examples? That you don't need to know the equation that
defines it. To have a function, the only thing we need is two variables that are related.

The Complete Expression of a Mathematical Function


The expression we give above for the area of the square is not complete. To know exactly what function
this equation defines we need to know something else. Do you recognize it?
What will happen if L=-4? We can't have a negative length, but we didn't specify that on the equation. If
we give that equation to a computer, it will "think" that it is also defined for negative values of L.

So, a more complete expression of the area function will be:

This means that L can only be positive or zero. The symbol between L and 0 means that L can be greater
or equal than 0. We often use that symbol in calculus, you'll get used to it.

Although this is the correct way to express a function using an equation, we often don't put the second
part. If there is no specification, it usually means that both variables can take any value.

To learn more about this, go to Domain of a Function: Understanding and Finding It.

Function Notation
Now I will introduce you to some notation. That is, how we write functions. In calculus we like to name
the variables "x" and "y". When we have an equation that defines a function, for example:

We like to say that y is the "dependent variable" and x is the "independent variable". This means that x
is independent, it can take up any value you want, as long as it agrees with the definition. The variable y
depends on the value that x takes.

This is only a convention. There is no reason why x couldn't be the dependent variable. But this is a
useful convention.

In this case, we say that y is a function of x. We write this as:

We read that "y equals f of x".

These are the fundamentals of mathematical functions. To keep learning more, follow some of the
following links.

Conclusion
These are the things I want you to leave with:

In calculus we study quantities that change.


We call quantities that change "variables".
If one variable is connected to another in some way, we say that one is a function of the other.
There are many ways to express functions: equations, graphs, tables.
To have a function correctly defined, we must specify which values x can take.
We write y = f(x) and read "y equals f of x".

To learn more about functions:

What is a Function and How to Solve Simple Problems


Develop an intuitive idea of what is a function and learn how to solve problems easily. Many examples
and exersices for you.

Domain of a Function: Understanding and Finding It


The idea behind the domain of a function is pretty simple, but it can be tricky to actually find them at
first. Here we'll delve into the intuition and solve problems step by step...

Composite Functions Made Clear and Examples


Composite functions very rarely are explained properly, yet it is essential for you to understand them if
you want to master calculus. Here we'll make them clear and do some examples...

What is a Function? A Simple Approach


There are many ways to understand what is a function. One way that is very useful is to consider it a
rule, which given an input, gives an output. This way of looking at functions is very useful in calculus,
and we'll be using it almost always.

What do I mean by a rule which asigns an output to an input? Consider a box, like the one below:

The box receives an "x" and gives the output "f(x)".

The functions we use in calculus are rules that relate numbers. So, in our case, the "x" in the box
represents any real number.

I'll give you an example. Let's make x equal to 1. Then,

In this case, we say that the function f(x) is evaluated at 1. We read f(1) "f of 1".

An actual function may look like this:

If we make x equal to 1, we have:


Me Example
You may already have an idea of what is a function after taking algebra. When thinking about functions
you probably think only about numbers.

Don't think that functions are only about numbers. In fact, almost anything can be considered a function!

Here are some hilarious examples of functions. I saw Salman Khan from the KhanAcademy teach using
them, and I found them very useful.

Let's say that I am a function. Let's study the Pablo function. In case you don't know, Pablo is my name.

What will happen if you give the Pablo function the input "food"? Let's see:

Pablo(food) = calculus pages

If you give me food, I'll output calculus pages!

Now, let's consider the "you" function. Let's give "you" the input "calculus pages":

You(calculus pages) = A's on your exams

You output A's on your exams.

Now, let's see what this expression means:

You(Pablo(food)) = ?

This may seem convoluted, but is very simple. Let's replace Pablo(food) by its equal, "calculus pages":

You(Pablo(food)) = You(calculus pages) = A's on your exams

You may or may not find these examples useful. I found them hilarious when I saw them.

They are useful to show what is a function and that they are not limited to relationships between
numbers.

Solved Problem 1
Let's do some function problems. Let's say that:
What is f(0)? Simple, right?

What is f(-1)?

Solved Problem 2
Now, let's a do a slightly more complicated problem. Until now, to design a function we've been using
only the letter f, as in f(x).

When we have more than one function, we need other letters to name the functions. The favorites are "g"
and "h".

In this problem we have three functions:

The question is:

Looks complicated, doesn't it?

Let's tackle it by parts. First, let's do g(3):

Now, we need f(0) to have g(3) complete. Let's find that:

Putting f(0) into equation (1) we have:


And finally:

Solved Problem 3
Here we have another interesting problem:

Let's think. What is f(x)? It is 1/(1+x). So,

Now, let's find this:

After doing the first one, this is easy:

Exercises
Here's a little exercise for you:
Answers

Conclusion
There are many ways to understand what is a function, because it is a very general concept.
One way that is very useful is as a box, which given an input, gives an output.
Do some function problems!

Finding the Domain of a Function Step by Step


What is the domain of a function? In what is a function we saw that we can think of a function as a rule.
This rule, given an input, gives an output.

You could also say that it is a rule that "maps" the input to the output. In calculus, we often use this
notation:

This means that "y" is a function of "x". Here, x is the input, often called the independent variable. And
y is the output, and it is called the dependent variable.

So, back to the domain of a function. What is it? It is just the set of values that x can take. You can think
of the domain as a bag. This bag contains all the x's you can choose as input for the function.

The domain of a function can be defined explicitly or implicitly, but it is always defined.

Example 1
As an example of a domain defined explicitly, let's say I give you the expression:
Here I tell you that x must be greater than 0. You can't choose any x. In the bag you only have positive
x's.

On the other hand, if I simply tell you that:

This function has an implicitly defined domain. I don't specify the valid values of x. So, it is implicit that
the domain is the set of all real numbers.

Example 2
A more interesting example of an implicitly defined domain is the function:

At first glance you may think this is the same as the previous case. However, what would happen if x=2?
We'll get

And 1/0 doesn't make sense. (if you're not completely sure why division by zero doesn't make sense,
here's a simple explanation).

Because f(2) doesn't make sense, we take the 2 out of the bag, and the domain is the set of all real
numbers that are not 2.

More examples...

Example 3
Let's consider the function:

In the real numbers, the squareroot of a number is defined only for positive numbers. The squareroots of
negative numbers do exist, but we won't consider them here.

So, our function is only defined when there is a positive number inside (or zero!) the square root sign.
That means that x-3 must be positive:

Adding 3 to both sides:


And the domain of this function is the set of all numbers equal or greater than 3. A fancy way of saying
this is that the domain is:

This is an interval that includes 3 and all numbers greater than 3.

Conclusion
The domain of a function is the set of all values the independent va riable can take.
The domain can be specified explicitly or implicitly. When it is implicit, the domain is the set of all
real numbers for which the function makes sense.

Return from Domain of a Function to Mathematical Fun

Composite Functions Made Clear and Examples


Composite functions is the fancy name given to functions whose argument is also a function. Let's say I
give you the functions defined by the rules:

Here we can create a new function, using g(x) as the argument:

In this case we substitute the "x" in sin(x) by x squared to get:

This new composite function is written as:

And the rule is:

Now, a question for you:

What is the domain of f circle g?

Remember that we need to specify the domain to have a function properly defined.
In this case, f circle g is defined for all valid values of g(x). Why? Because g(x) is the argument!

But what are the valid values of g(x)? sin(x) is well defined for all real values of x. So, the domain is the
set of real numbers.

Let's do some examples...

Example 1
Let's say we have the functions:

We want to find:

We want the value of S circle P at y.

According to our definition of composite functions:

Now it looks simpler, doesn't it? What would our P(y) be? Well, just replace x by y:

So, we have:

Now, we just replace the x in:

by 2 to the y. So, we get:

And that is:


And that's our answer.

Composition of More Than Two Functions


Let's keep working the functions:

Now, let's say we want to find:

Because we have the (t) at the end, what we wanto to find is the value of the function at t. According to
our definition:

In the previous examples, we've found that:

Here, instead of why we have s(t). So, we just to replace and get:

But what is s(t)? It is:

So, finally:

What would had happened if we instead were asked to find:

What do you think? Will it be the same result? Let's find out:
We first need to find:

We again apply our definition:

And we know that:

So, replacing in the previous equation:

But, we also know:

So, we have:

And replacing that in what we were originally looking for:

And the function S just squares whatever it has as argument:

And it is the same result. This is a property of all composite functions:

No matter where you put the parenthesis, you get the same value.

That is, using function notation:

Because these two are equal, we usually just write:


Example 3
Now we'll solve the reverse of what we were doing previously. Let's say we have the function defined
by:

And we want to express f in terms of our functions S, P and s:

We can solve this in two ways, but getting the same result. We have:

We can start analyzing the "outer" function sin. We have a function sin(something). Our s(x) is defined
as sin(x), so we have:

Ok, now we have to express 2 to the x using our functions. This one is easy. We already have:

So,

Writing this in function notation:

What is the othe way of doing this problem? You could also had started repalcing first the 2 to the x. As
an exercise, you might want to do the same with the function:
Conclusion

A composite function is a function whose argument is another function.


When you have the composite of three functions, no matter where you put the parenthesis, you get
the same function.
Composite functions problems are not hard. You just need to get used to notation.