• University of Leicester

Real World Calculus: How Maths Drives Formula One and Launches Angry Birds

Understand how maths, such as differentiation and integration, is applied in everyday life with this free online calculus course.

12,005 enrolled on this course

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  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

Mathematics is at the heart of many aspects of modern life. Whether playing a game on your mobile phone, watching a Grand Prix or waking up to sunlight in the morning, maths (and more precisely, calculus) is behind the scenes.

Maths is also used in many disciplines - from economics to engineering, biology to geography. But many of us struggle with maths, and find formulae and theories difficult to grasp, meaning that we can find ourselves at a disadvantage when thinking about certain careers.

The aim of this free online course is to demonstrate the practical uses of calculus and show that maths need not be daunting. It will give a basic introduction to the subject, with links to further resources for those who want to study at a more advanced level.

Learn calculus using familiar, real world applications

We will take familiar, real world activities, such as motor racing and mobile games like Angry Birds, and use them to uncover the basic elements of calculus.

Together, we will look at the key ideas of calculus and how they are applied in real life situations:

  • differentiation: how things change
  • integration: how we put these changes together to decide what will happen in the future
  • and the fundamental theorem of calculus: how differentiation and integration are related.

Get tips from people who use calculus everyday

We will meet experts from economics, physics and engineering, who will describe how they use maths in their own work. In this way, you’ll be learning about some powerful uses of mathematics through some very familiar, real world applications.

Join us on a journey from the race track to the solar system, and gain valuable insights as you travel.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 15 seconds Many people find mathematics very, very frightening. From my point of view, there’s no need for that. And one thing people often find particularly frightening is something called calculus. Calculus is an absolutely crucial tool in understanding the design and the performance of motor racing vehicles, from how much fuel is going to be consumed to the downforce as you go along the straight and around a corner.

Skip to 0 minutes and 42 seconds On this MOOC you’ll be studying the two key ideas of calculus– that is, differentiation and integration. Differentiation is all about how things change. Integration’s about how we put all these little changes together to decide what happens in the future. In particular, we’ll be looking at who is the world’s fastest motor racing driver, why does the Earth go around the Sun, and how do we put a man on the moon. Leicester’s already got a lot of experience in delivering MOOCs, and this is all built on a long history of Leicester University providing distance-learning courses across a wide range of subjects. Our academics are creating distance-learning materials all the time.

Skip to 1 minute and 23 seconds Mathematics is a fantastic tool for answering some of the most interesting and strange questions from the world. For instance, how do we put a man on the moon? Or why, when we make a football of pentagons and hexagons, do we need exactly 12 pentagons? That’s why I love mathematics.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

Who is the course for?

We assume no previous knowledge of calculus, or anything more complex than a general knowledge of numbers and basic algebra.

This course is aimed at those at school, or applying for college or university. But it will also be useful and relevant to students in higher education; practitioners in a range of disciplines; and anyone who has found mathematics difficult through traditional teaching methods.

Who will you learn with?

I am passionate about communicating my ideas about mathematics. I have taught in university for around 25 years and am still finding it as interesting and challenging as when I started.

Who developed the course?

University of Leicester

The University of Leicester is a leading research led university with a strong tradition of excellence in teaching. It is consistently ranked amongst the top 20 universities in the United Kingdom.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control

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