Calculus: A Comedy

Sadly, my blog got hacked and all of my image assets were destroyed. Back up yo stuff, folks.

How I Teach Calculus: A Comedy in n acts

This is the table of contents for my ongoing series on the lessons I give in my Honors Calculus course. This list is not exhaustive of my classroom behaviors or activities, but they are the lessons I’ve had time to write about.

Rich Ideas

These are things that students sometimes bite into. I like them because I can see all sorts of calculus and math in them, but sometimes the students don’t, or do, who knows!

xkcd (gets its own category):

YouTube Statistics:

  • Compare average views (integration)
  • Compare views attained in comparable intervals (Bieber-Black, not relevant anymore)
  • Function fitting fun


  • Temperature dependence
  • pH dependence
  • Exponentials

Garden Hose

  • Flow and force (fireman’s hose style)
  • Fill rates
  • Pressure and flex in rubber
  • Use it to propel objects (big, wheeled trash cans work great)


  • Easily built from two Gatorade bottles (or human-sized from grocery store cardboard cantaloupe crates)
  • Wind speed and kinematics of the boat
  • Keel size
  • Dependence of sail angle on whatever you want to measure.

The Stock Market

  • Fourier and sine and cosine and slopes and oh my gosh it’s endless.
  • How much crying does Mark Zuckerberg do on any given night?

Motivating Trigonometry:

  • Find the “sine” and “cosine” of random shapes, like rhombus, squares, ellipses, whatever the kids want.
  • Plan a camera pan using forced perspective (Hobbits!)

Academic Papers Students Should Read: