13 interesting reasons why the US focus on calculus

A lot of students study math and ask why the US system Focus on calculus in math classes than any is another subject.

In general, there are 4 main calculus programs in the United State while all other countries have 1 or 2 as a maximum.

So why US focus so much on calculus?.

in this article, we’re going to discover the 13 reasons why the US education system focuses on calculus.

Calculus is hard

according to Utdanacenter between 25 to 30% of students fail in their first calculus course in a college. The whole world is afraid of calculus.

the majority of students take other math courses like algebra, trigonometry, or probability but run from calculus. For this reason, the US education system tries to introduce early calculus in high schools.

This is for the sake to solidify high school students’ knowledge and prepare them for upcoming challenges for more difficult college courses.

It is the basis of math

Calculus is the base road to an advanced math career, college and especially US High Schools focus to prepare future college students for upcoming advanced math levels.

For this reason, we find 4 calculus programs are attributed to the US education system.

  • Calc 1
  • calc 2
  • calc 3
  • calc 4

In addition, calculus is considered the most applicable topic in engineering and economics fields. It is an interesting domain that allows us to study the variations and changes that can happen in any system.

it is necessary to take courses

For stem students, calculus is something inevitable, that is to say, students will face calculus anywhere they go in their career. So as a Stem student you will need calculus to apply for the majority of courses like:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Construction Management
  • Engineering – Civil
  • computers cinece
  • mechanical engineering
  • mechatronic engineering
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Geology
  • Geosciences
  • Mathematics
  • Natural Sciences
  • Physics
  • Neuroscience

But mechanical engineering and geologists will apply calculus differently. The geologist engineers will apply calculus less intensively not like mechanical or electrical engineers do.

it a key to passe from high school to college

And US high school students study the are 3 pillars of calculus that are:

  • Limits
  • Derivatives
  • Integrals

These 3 calculus concepts are primordially important to apply in all scientific and mathematical aspects.

So the goal is to prepare high school students and give them strong basics to face maths challenges and also gives students a clear idea about difficulties to expect pursuing the stem field in a college.

Because the stem is not a major for anyone.

15% is the drop rate among stem students, while 13% of college students drop the major in their first year. It is like a first test for students to know if they can bear with math in upcoming challenges or not.

it is very very very important for engineering students

calculus is a very interesting topic for the engineering field it is almost used in all engineering field. So we all know that the US intent is to produce as much as the maximum engineer’s numbers in the country.

In this table below you can how much is important by discovering who are the engineerings who are use calculus in their jobs.

Engineering fields 

Electrical and electronic engineering technicians

Petroleum engineers

Nuclear engineers

Mining and geological engineers

Mechanical engineering

Materials engineers

Marine engineers and naval architects

Landscape Architects

Industrial engineering

Health and safety engineers

Environmental engineering technologists

Aerospace Engineers

Computer science engineers

Chemical engineers

Agricultural Engineers

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers

Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

Civil engineering


Electro-mechanical technicians

Engineering Technologists

So for students who think of becoming engineers, calculus is something to accept. Because many freshman engineering students try to prevent calculus at any cost which is not good.

world War 2 and Cold War

After the end of the second world war and directly at the beginning of the cold war in 1947, America had a need for engineers for many military projects and technology applications.

And as we know calculus is intensively used in engineering, US took a perspective to focus on calculus and introduce it early as we see it today, in high schools even before college.

calculus wasn’t important at that time like today, but there is some thought that says Algebra was commonly used before than calculus.

The race space in 50’s and 60’s

The calculus revolution spark happened at 10:29 p.m. in 1957 when Spotnic the Russian spacecraft was released and made Russia the first county in the world to reach space.

America at that time was under a lot of pressure, especially after several failed trials. At that moment soviets were advancing the US in rocket science, so America become more geared to form more engineers to win this war.

From that time the focus in stem majors like mathematics and especially calculus was the pinnacle obligations.


Today America suffers from a big shortcoming in many stem field that requires mathematics including calculus.

for instance, if we take computer since as an example and according to the article 10 reasons why software engineers are overpaid

  • The demand for computer science is 3 times more than a supply
  • 1.4M jobs were unfilled in computer science the last year
  • more than 600k unfilled data scientists jobs are today in the US only.

US government tries to encourage students to go into this field and study stem subjects like math, and especially calculus. Because the potential is big and the job gap opportunity is expanding.

But students have fear of math and take other majors which Crucializing the problem. you can read these related math articles:

Calculus is one of the most applicable topic

Calculus is one of the most applicable subjects in scientific domains, mathematics physicist biologists and even economists are using calculus.

The united state focuses hugely on scientific research she spends nearly more than $600 billion in this field. Science and Technology are in the first obligations.

So it is not weird to see the US education system supporting scientific and math topics, especially for calculus which is used widely in many science and technology areas.

it important also for economics

Even in economics, Calculus is the big player and a very interesting tool used in some economies areas like:

  • Market study by analyzing the variations
  • insurance economy such risk calculation, mortality rates, sickness, etc
  • loans insurance
  • determining marginal revenues and cost of businesses
  • predicting the future events, for example the number of inflation in the next 10 years and other things..

There are many other things that calculus plays in the economic industry. So as we know America is a country that encourages business and economies.

Thus focusing on calculus as the US is will be not weird for this country, They love to introduce the philosophy of numbers in the next generations.

Is a pillar to study stem in college

when we talk about calculus we talk about the STEM field, this domain is getting funding more than any major in the US, and the government knows why.

you can read this article for more information about Why Stem gets so much money?(8 important facts).

The US is driving hugely the stem major because it knows its importance, to stay as the strongest country in the world. So it is not strange to find mathematicians getting roofs salaries. Simply because it knows how much effect that in industrialization.

Calculus belongs to math, is the principal pillar in STEM, without math neither Science, Technology nor engineering can go ahead.

you might need it in SAT exams

Before 2016 calculus wasn’t absolutely included in SAT exams but after that time things has changed. Today we hear about precalc, that is to say, if you are a student who looks to pass the SAT exams you will expect to have some calculus on the road.

80% of precalculus in SAT exams are easy and students could pass, but as a student, you can’t run from the calculus. Because you will find it the upcoming college courses.

Currently, it is right that calculus is not dominating in SAT exams and it only covers less than 10% of global questions. But who knows in the future, as long as the US education government tends to focus on calculus, is expectable that the 10% will rise over time.

It is extremly important for Ap exams

For students who are interested to take special high school courses in order to earn some college credits, calculus is a must. We can see clearly the US education system how pushes students to learn calculus.

To explain more, in AP programs has 2 calculus courses :

  • AB calculus test
  • BC calculus test
  • if a student succeed in the AB calculus test he will earn 1 semester of calculus credit
  • if a student succeeds in the BC calculus test he reduces 1 college year in calculus.

The US focuses on calculus in high schools to encourage students to pass these types of exams and break some fears that have toward math.


To be frank with students calculus is something important and students should learn. In other, words students shouldn’t run from Because is not hard like they might expect.

you could watch this video to help you if failed in calculus or are afraid to pass calculus exams.


Yassin ajanif is a physics graduate and electromechanical engineer width more than 5 years in the field. My goal and my team are to share our experience to help you succeed in your career as a stem major. we talk about all tips, problems, and struggle STEM students face in their career and how to overcome them.