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Hands on Calculus


Last week Calculus 1 got their hands wet in the lab as part of their study of differential calculus.

People don’t expect to play with water in calculus class, but that’s what happened last week when the students of Calculus 1 spent a period in the lab. They took data that they could then model using differential calculus.

In the lab the students compared how the height of water in a flask changed with the total volume of water poured into the flask. They used a variety of shapes and sizes of flasks from the school’s glassware collection. After making the measurements the students generated tables and scatter plot graphs. At the end of the lab, students were able to look at a height versus volume graph of the data and predict the shape of the flask used.

Differential calculus is the study of change. The purpose of the activity was to introduce the difference between average and instantaneous rate of change and offer a real-world meaning of an inflection point.

Joan Sullivan
Written by Joan Sullivan