Calculus Mottos

There is one motto I like to bring up in calculus:

Take what you don’t know, and turn it into what you do know.

We also have a few extra mottos floating around:

Calculus above all.

Don’t be a hero.

(The last one refers to doing all the calculation in a problem at once, in one line of work. Too much room for horrible horrible error, they aren’t communicating their ideas, and a million other problems.)

On their midterm, I gave two easy bonus questions. I do this as a way to give a little “error correction” to my grading… With midterms, I have to grade a lot of long tests with a lot of questions, and I suspect that I probably make a small error on one or two of the tests. I figure giving a little bonus boost to everyone helps me feel better about any inadvertent errors.

This year the questions were:

A. Make up a new calculus motto and give examples of using it in this course.
B. Draw a picture of Mr. Shah. Make it snazzy.

I loved these bonuses. Reading them after grading the midterm (which kids did awesome on, b.t.dubs) was hilarious.

I am going to share the mottos with you:

  • Calculus is not just math, it’s a way of life.
  • Use yourself, then some others. After that, calculus won’t be a bother.
  • Practice makes perfect!
  • Take what your friends know, and turn it into what you know!
  • “Crazy for Calculus!”
  • Calculus: I find its commentary insightful and would like to subscribe to its newsletter.
  • Calculus: I promise it’s not as hard as you think it is
  • D.A.N.C.E. — Derive Awesome Nifty Calculus Equations
  • Build the basement before you shingle the roof.
  • Don’t forget the old skills from 1st semester or you won’t be able to register.
  • Calculus is life, life is calculus.
  • History repeats itself: Even if you won’t be tested on a skill, the concepts will come up later on.
  • Don’t freak out.
  • Break it down to its most basic form, to understand it.
  • Go to your limits, reach for infinity, and always aim for the other side of the curve!
  • Write it right and you’ll get it right.
  • “Zero is okay when you’re at the top, but terrible when you are at the bottom.” [re: dividing by zero]
  • (Almost) anything can be simplified in calculus.
  • Calculus above all, and even above senioritis!

Loves me some mottos. Their descriptions of them using it were priceless and spot on. Wondering if I should be ordering some new buttons soon? #methinkso!



  1. I like the DANCE one (although I’d replace it with Derive Another Neat Calculus Equation). Then you can say, “Since we want the maximum value, it’s time to…..DANCE!” and then break it down for 2 seconds before taking the derivative and checking signs and whatnot. It could also be fun to pick on a student do a quick dance and then they tell the class the derivative.

  2. Very cool, Sam. My classroom motto (demonstrated on day #1 and referenced throughout each semester) was “math is applying what you know to a new situation.”

    I really like the “don’t be a hero” motto.

  3. I’d like to change one from above to “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Merely practicing does not make perfect. Mediocre practice makes mediocre. Incorrect practice makes incorrect (and takes forever to undo).

  4. I ***LOVE*** these, especially “Don’t be a hero” and “Don’t freak out.” :-)

    Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf on Twitter)

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