Free Coursera Calculus course with hand-drawn animated materials

Robert Ghrist from University of Pennsylvania wrote in to tell us about his new, free Coursera course in single-variable Calculus, which starts on Jan 7. Calculus is one of those amazing, chewy, challenging branches of math, and Ghrist's hand-drawn teaching materials look really engaging.

Calculus is one of the grandest achievements of human thought, explaining everything from planetary orbits to the optimal size of a city to the periodicity of a heartbeat. This brisk course covers the core ideas of single-variable Calculus with emphases on conceptual understanding and applications. The course is ideal for students beginning in the engineering, physical, and social sciences. Distinguishing features of the course include:

the introduction and use of Taylor series and approximations from the beginning;

* a novel synthesis of discrete and continuous forms of Calculus;

* an emphasis on the conceptual over the computational; and

* a clear, entertaining, unified approach.

Calculus: Single Variable (Thanks, Robert!)


  1. Great post, and I am likely being pedantic, but I think it’s important to distinguish between *describing* and *explaining*.

  2. I signed up for this course, rather than another introductory calculus course offered through Coursera, because Ghrist’s approach seems radically different than the industry standard.  His Funny Little Calculus Textbook starts off with functions, but immediately jumps to Taylor series, assuming the reader knows how to take the derivatives of simple polynomials.  In other words, it seems more like a course about understanding calculus than doing calculus.    

  3. Trying to figure out why George Takei agreed to read this script while wearing pants that are 2 sizes too small.

  4. Yay, I already signed up for this course a few months ago!

    Even as a programmer I’ve always felt my basic calc was a bit rusty, and while I could probably just take a two-session refresher course and jump straight to Calc 2, this course looked fun. Now… hopefully I can stick with the schedule better than I could with “The History of the World Since 1300.” Who would have guessed that 700 years of history would require lots of reading and lectures? (The course was very good, and I made it through four weeks on-schedule, but in the end I didn’t have nearly enough time.)

  5. Holy moley! It’s still as densely unapproachable to me as I remember it being when I flunked it in high school! Even with cartoons, which always grab my attention! I was lost by 1:03 seconds in! Thank goodness there are other people that can do this stuff and put it to practical use. I’ll just stay in the kitchen, if anyone needs a sandwich.

    1. There’s also a more basic Calculus One course:

      The only prereqs are highschool algebra and trig.

  6. I did a computer science course on Coursera in the spring that I thought was very good. I then tried another and didn’t like the way it was done and gave up on it. I definitely need a calculus refresher and this looks good so I’m sold on this one, I hope it turns out well. 

Comments are closed.