edX: Calculus Applied!

 with  John Wesley Cain and Juliana Belding

In this course, we go beyond the calculus textbook, working with practitioners in social, life and physical sciences to understand how calculus and mathematical models play a role in their work.

Through a series of case studies, you’ll learn:

  • How standardized test makers use functions to analyze the difficulty of test questions;
  • How economists model interaction of price and demand using rates of change, in a historical case of subway ridership;
  • How an x-ray is different from a CT-scan, and what this has to do with integrals;
  • How biologists use differential equation models to predict when populations will experience dramatic changes, such as extinction or outbreaks;
  • How the Lotka-Volterra predator-prey model was created to answer a biological puzzle;
  • How statisticians use functions to model data, like income distributions, and how integrals measure chance;
  • How Einstein’s Energy Equation, E=mc2 is an approximation to a more complicated equation.

With real practitioners as your guide, you’ll explore these situations in a hands-on way: looking at data and graphs, writing equations, doing calculus computations, and making educated guesses and predictions.

This course provides a unique supplement to a course in single-variable calculus. Key topics include application of derivatives, integrals and differential equations, mathematical models and parameters.

This course is for anyone who has completed or is currently taking a single-variable calculus course (differential and integral), at the high school (AP or IB) or college/university level. You will need to be familiar with the basics of derivatives, integrals, and differential equations, as well as functions involving polynomials, exponentials, and logarithms.

This is a course to learn applications of calculus to other fields, and NOT a course to learn the basics of calculus. Whether you’re a student who has just finished an introductory Calculus course or a teacher looking for more authentic examples for your classroom, there is something for you to learn here, and we hope you’ll join us!

Using Desmos in this Course This course uses Desmos (, an online graphing calculator, to illustrate examples. Your use of the Desmos platform or any content hosted by Desmos is subject to the Desmos terms of service at and privacy policy at

If you do not wish to use the Desmos platform or view content hosted by Desmos, you may not be able to complete the course. This course does NOT require you to make your own individual user account on Desmos. Desmos is a separate entity and is not directly affiliated with HarvardX or edX.

HarvardX requires individuals who enroll in its courses on edX to abide by the terms of the edX honor code. HarvardX will take appropriate corrective action in response to violations of the edX honor code, which may include dismissal from the HarvardX course; revocation of any certificates received for the HarvardX course; or other remedies as circumstances warrant. No refunds will be issued in the case of corrective action for such violations. Enrollees who are taking HarvardX courses as part of another program will also be governed by the academic policies of those programs.

HarvardX pursues the science of learning. By registering as an online learner in an HX course, you will also participate in research about learning. Read our research statement to learn more.

Harvard University and HarvardX are committed to maintaining a safe and healthy educational and work environment in which no member of the community is excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination or harassment in our program. All members of the HarvardX community are expected to abide by Harvard policies on nondiscrimination, including sexual harassment, and the edX Terms of Service. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact and/or report your experience through the edX contact form.

0 Student
Cost Free Online Course
Subject Calculus
Institution Harvard University
Provider edX
Language English
Certificates $99 Certificate Available
Hours 3-6 hours a week
Calendar 7-9 weeks long
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FAQ View All
What are MOOCs?
MOOCs stand for Massive Open Online Courses. These are free online courses from universities around the world (eg. Stanford Harvard MIT) offered to anyone with an internet connection.
How do I register?
To register for a course, click on "Go to Class" button on the course page. This will take you to the providers website where you can register for the course.
How do these MOOCs or free online courses work?
MOOCs are designed for an online audience, teaching primarily through short (5-20 min.) pre recorded video lectures, that you watch on weekly schedule when convenient for you.  They also have student discussion forums, homework/assignments, and online quizzes or exams.

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