Letters from a Calculus Class

Dear Newton,

C’mon, dude. You already get credit for the laws of motion, that cool apple story, and the tasty fig cookies. Let me have this.



Dear Student,

I know it stings to fail a test that badly. But hey, silver lining: you’re so far into the area below the curve that you’re practically an integral.



Dear Student,

I’ll put it this way: You don’t seem to understand me yet, but you keep getting closer.


Dear “Ordinary” Differential Equations,

How does it feel to know you’re not special?

-Partial Differential Equations


Dear “Partial” Differential Equations,

How does it feel to know you’re not complete?

-Ordinary Differential Equations


Dear Mean Value Theorem,

Please, show mercy! I beg you, have a heart!

The Kind Value Theorem

Dear Local Maximum,

Mr. Big Shot, huh? You are just a mid-sized fish in a very big pond, my friend. Watch yourself.

-The Global Maximum


Dear Television Series,

Pssh. You call yourselves “series”? You’re finite! What fun is that?

-Geometric Series


Dear Related Rates Problems,

You guys are like snowflakes—each of you is totally unique! And if there are enough of you, it’s safer to call off school and stay home.


Dear Teacher,

I know you called this unit Optimization, but I’m feeling more like Pessimization right now.

-Struggling Student


Dear Global Minimum,

Whenever I feel down about myself, I just look at you and I think, “Hey, at least I’m not that guy.” So thanks for being the lowest of the low!

-Local Minimum


Dear Student,

To answer your question: Yes, I would say that the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus is something you should know for this calculus course. It’s very useful. Crucial, even. Heck, you might even call it “fundamental.”

-Your Teacher

Dear Teacher,

You misunderstood me! When I called the behavior at that point “discontinuous,” I meant it like, “Dis be continuous, mon.”



Dear Lindsay Lohan,

Now I can’t finish a calculus test without whispering (and then screaming) “THE LIMIT DOES NOT EXIST.” Thanks a lot.



Dear Physics,

If acceleration is the derivative of velocity, and velocity is the derivative of position, then what is position the derivative of? Did I just blow your mind?

-Stoner mathematician

Dear 1950s Alabama,

What’s your problem? Integration is easy—here, I’ll show you.

-Calculus student


Dear Product Rule and Chain Rule,

I finally tracked you down! Don’t deny it: You’re my parents, aren’t you?

-Quotient Rule


Dear Worker,

First, you endanger everybody on this crew by pulling that ladder away from the wall at a constant velocity. And now you want help creating a mathematical model for the consequences of your irresponsibility? Here’s a consequence: You’re fired.

-Your foreman

Dear Derivative,

You’re so inconsiderate. It’s like you don’t even notice I’m there!

-Constant term


Dear Shepherd,

I realize it saves fence if you use the river as one border of your pasture, but aren’t you worried about us falling into the water? I’m not sure we can swim!

-Your Sheep


Dear Polynomials,

Want to race? You can even have a head start.


Dear Students,

Remember, doing a u-substitution is like the aftermath of a break-up. You go through and clear away all the signs of your ex, until there’s nothing left but you.

-Your teacher


Dear Teacher,

If the best student in our class maintains an A, and the worst student manages to raise his grade until it’s also an A, wouldn’t you have to give the rest of us A’s, based on the squeeze theorem?

-C student


Dear f(x) = 1782x2 + 1,

I’m sorry to say it, but you’ve got a huge concavity.

-Your Dentist

Dear Infinite Sequence,

Never mind. We thought somebody said “infinite sequins.”

-Costume Designers


Dear Teacher,

Why did you take off points for the question about finding a formula for dy/dx for the curve x2 + y2 = 16? I mean, sure, I didn’t actually write anything down, but I figured it was implicit.

-A student


Dear Monarchy,

Shall we use the guillotine? Or do you prefer that we revolve this rope around the axis of your neck? Vive la resistance!

-Solids of Violent Revolution

21 thoughts on “Letters from a Calculus Class

  1. Thanks, everybody! Calcdave and coruscantbookshelf, I may work yours into a similar post in the future, if you don’t mind. 🙂 And Karen, I’m proud to encourage your intellectual journey, though I suspect you may eventually reclassify groaners like these under “reasons NOT to learn math.”

  2. George, to his teacher:

    I have now integrated my preconceived ideas and the enlightenments engendered by yourself, but I still have trouble differentiating between “the limit of” and “the limits of”.

    George’s teacher, aside:

    I think George would be better off writing a novel. he could call it “The Limits of Continuity”.

    1. Dear Surprisingly Wakeful Emily,

      where am i? i think i came here on a plane and it’s full of rainclouds but also buttered scones, so i think i like it but i will keep you posted.

      -sleepy ben

  3. These are brilliant, and I’m totally going to share them with my calculus class next term. My only complaint is that the “nothing to lose but their chains” surface of revolution should have been a catenary.😊

    1. It’s a joke about the optimisation of fencing that covers the most area. The best solution is a 50×25 wall for 100m.

      So the sheep can fall to the water

  4. Dear Physics,

    If acceleration is the derivative of velocity, and velocity is the derivative of position, then what is position the derivative of? Did I just blow your mind?

    -Stoner mathematician

    Wait, isn’t it the other way around?(position is the derivative of velocity-> (velocity)’=position

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