Integral Calculus

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Jason Fox Finding the Area of Rectangle Using A Definite Integral FoxTrot


Integrals are the values of the function found by the process of integration. The process of getting f(x) from f'(x) is called integration. Integrals assign numbers to functions in a way that describe displacement and motion problems, area and volume problems, and so on that arise by combining all the small data. Given the derivative f’ of the function f, we can determine the function f. Here, the function f is called antiderivative or integral of f’. 3

Example: Given: f(x) = x.

Derivative of f(x) = f'(x) = 2x = g(x)

if g(x) = 2x, then the anti-derivative of g(x) = ∫g(x) = x2

Integration is the opposite of differentiation! Integration is a way of adding slices to find the whole, and differentiation is a process of finding a function that outputs the rate of change of one variable with respect to another variable.

Definite integrals are about finding the area between a function and the x axis.


Anyone, like me, that can perform integral calculus (pure mathematics) but always wondered what is could be used for. In class, we talked area under the curve, maxima and minima, limits and many other topics, but I never fully appreciated the power of integral calculus and what the area under the curve meant until a number of years after I graduated college.

See Differential Calculus | Who.


What is an integral?

Integrals form a major pillar of calculus, and have many practical applications such as computing the area bounded by a curve and finding the distance traveled by an object directly from its velocity v(t).

But what exactly are integrals? At a basic level, you can think of integrals as “undoing” derivatives much in the same way that logarithms “undo” exponentials. However, this is just the beginning of what integrals can do.

For example, with integrals, you can show that this shape has finite volume and infinite surface area.

Gabriel’s Horn

There is quite a lot to unpack here, but do not fret. In Integrals in a Nutshell, we’ll get started understanding what integrals are and how they are used.

Where we start:

The graph below shows the region bounded by the graph of y = f(x), the x-axis, and the vertical lines
x = 0 and x = b.

What happens to the area of this region, A, as you change b?

  1. It remains constant no matter what b is.
  2. It changes steadily (i.e. at a constant rate) as b increases.
  3. It changes, but the rate isn’t steady (i.e. the rate depends on b).

Where we end up:

We can approximate the shape under a curve with some rectangles. Adding up the rectangular areas gives us an estimate for the true area.

n is the number of rectangles, and the plot displays their total area.

Use this to estimate the blue area, and therefore the integral of f between 0 and 1.

  • 1
  • 1/2
  • 2/3
  • 1/6

Courtesy of Brilliant Math Weekly email What is an integral?

What is the area under the curve?

Area under the curve basically signifies the magnitude of the quantity that is obtained by the product of the quantities signified by the x and the y axes.

For example, consider a velocity-time graph and let y-axis denote the velocity of an object (in metre/second), and let x-axis denote the time taken by the object (in seconds). The area under an arbitrary curve would signify the displacement of the object (in metres). Since we know that displacement is the product of velocity and time.1

The area under a curve will indicate a number directly related to the data. Depending on the problem you are solving, it will be a solution to a question.

For instance, a farmer has two tractors. One uses x amount of fuel to till an acre of land, while the other uses y amount. One tractor has 1200 hp, and the other has 1900 hp, so they move at different speeds, and one can pull a wider plow than the other.

The field is not flat but has a hill in the middle. One tractor can operate on a slope up to 14 degrees, while the other can operate up to 17 degrees without tipping over. The field is not square, and it isn’t quite round.

  • Which tractor should he use to till which parts of the field to minimize his fuel usage?
  • Which tractor should he use to get the entire field planted the fastest?
  • How much of the field can he till and how much will remain unused and inaccessible?

I haven’t provided enough detail to solve this problem, but the practical application of calculus for everyday usage is the point I wish to make here.

One of the solutions (or the result to an intermediate step in your solution) may be derived from the area under the curve of a formula you may derive to solve the problem.2

In addition to the answers given, it should be always kept in mind that math is a tool to explain natural phenomenon and processes.

Integrals have two pictures to understand from

  • Geometric
  • Physical

Area under curve is a geometric interpretation, while integral of velocity function over a time interval is a physical interpretation, which is distance or displacement.

It’s easy to have a geometric interpretation up to double integrals, but its difficult (at least for me!!) to interpret higher integrals geometrically.

It’s better to always interpret maths physically (whenever possible). This makes studying math fun and interesting.4

The area under the curve on a distance vs time graph is known as the absement, which is a measure of “how far away” an object is AND “for how long.” In SI units, absement is measured in meter-seconds. At first glance, this doesn’t seem like it would be very useful, but absement does have many applications, including in kinesiology and modeling fluid flow. This website provides a useful example, in my opinion: The time-integral of displacement. Examples. 5


See Theoretical Knowledge Vs Practical Application.


Many of the References and Additional Reading, websites and Videos will assist you with how to perform integration. Also, I hope I have helped you to appreciate the application of integration.

As some professors say: “It is intuitively obvious to even the most casual observer.”


1 Maheshwary, Yashit. “Integration (Mathematics): What Does An Area Under The Curve Really Mean?”. 2021. Quora.

2 Schmaltz, Wade. “Why Is It Important To Know The Area Of A Curve In Integral Calculus?”. 2021. Quora.

3 ⭐ “Integral Calculus – Formulas, Methods, Examples | Integrals”. 2021. Cuemath.

4 Bodkhe, Sagar. “Integration (Mathematics): What Does An Area Under The Curve Really Mean?” 2021. Quora.

5 Vital Sine. “What Does The Area Under The Curve Represent On A Distance Vs. Time Graph? – Quora”. 2021. Quora.

Additional Reading

⭐ “Introduction To Integration”. 2021.

“Intuition Behind The Concept Of The Integral”. 2021. Medium.

DVD, Math. 2021. “Table Of Integrals In Calculus”.

“Integration Rules”. 2022.

Lloyd, Philip. “If the definite integral of a function equals zero, then what does that mean?” 2023. Quora.

“Mathwords: Area Under A Curve”. 2021.

⭐ Ryan, Mark. Calculus for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2003.

⭐ Strogatz, Steven. Infinite powers: how calculus reveals the secrets of the universe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 2019.

⭐ Udall, Kai. “What Is The Significance Of The Area Under The Curve?”. 2021. Quora.

Suppose you have a function that graphs velocity on the y axis and time on the x axis. Velocity is defined as distance over time. When we calculate the area under the curve of our function over an interval. In this case our interval would be two points of time, and our area would be the distance travelled. In simple examples this is easy to do without thinking about the area under the curve or the integral.


Calculus – Area under Simple Curves
Calculus – Example on Area under Simple Curves
Integration and the fundamental theorem of calculus
Introduction to integral calculus | Accumulation and Riemann sums

⭐ I suggest that you read the entire reference. Other references can be read in their entirety but I leave that up to you.

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