12 reasons why calculus is important for CS major

computer science is a heavy major in math, especially in calculus, so why calculus is much important for a CS major?

some computer science programs teach:

  • calc 1
  • calc 2
  • calc 3

So, is said to have this much calculus in computer science classes, what are the reasons that make educators have this strategy?

In this post, we’re going to discover the 12 famous reasons that make calculus intensively used in CS classes.

1 – Calculus is important for algorithms

calculus has 3 principals elements:

  • Derivatives
  • Limits
  • Integrals

The most important thing that highly professional developers use are limits to explain, understand and analyze the performance of algorithms.

For instance, analyze the algorithm and take advantage of inputs and outputs, to clarify a computer have an input and output.

So and lets to explain in a form of a simple example:

  1. Where you write your code on the programming editor, the computer receives these instructions by its inputs located in memory.
  2. The second step is he has find and trait this information ( your code ) and transform them into a response.
  3. the last step is to send a response by using the output channels.

So calculus allows you to study these inputs and outputs in order to enhance their usabilities and get an efficient code.

Also, it helps to reduce the complexity of the algorithm which helps a computer to understand better the code and run it fastly.

Today programming is not writing code that works and does the job, is about writing the most efficient code. As a result need to understand what is going on behind the sciences in algorithms, where calculus plays an important role.

2 – calculus is required in a data structure, especially in this domain

The most important that you will study or study in computer science as a student is the data structure. So what is data structure?

In its simplest definition, a data structure is an ability to write an efficient code which means and for example:

  1. code that has a lower size or volume for instance one developer can write a program that weighs 1Mb and another in 10 Mb but both do the same job. The first programmer is more skilled than the second one.
  2. Being able to write code that compiles faster
  3. the last thing a knowledgable data structure student can run a code with minimum bugs.

Data structure allowed computer science students to be closer to a machine. To simplify more, writing a code that the computer can understand easily without putting a lot of effort.

The good and really used use of calculus in the data structure is a technology called “Big O ” .you know more about it by watching this video below.

3 – mathematical maturity

calculus is important to build math knowledge or what is called mathematical maturity. To clarify math is a topic that is very tied and complex, sometimes you find calculus used in many other math subjects.

For instance, statistics is a very interesting topic, especially for computer science students who want to major in data science. But you can’t learn statistics if you don’t know what is calculus.

Data science uses calculus in statistics to study a change in markets, analyze data, and do a lot of stuff.

The same thing for linear algebra or combinatorics, you must have a good understanding of calculus. So calculus is almost crossing with the whole mathematical subject.

4 – calculus used in machine learning

For comptuer science students who are interested in machine learning or deep learning, calculus is very important.

calculus is used in machine learning to do an optimization of a code, machine learning researchers use calculus to study a tiny change that happens in the algorithm.

for instance:

let’s say that we have a lot of statistics and data about:

  • Math exam scores
  • and the high dropping rate of CS students.

So our goal in this example is to know if math is a principal reason that makes students drop CS or another reason.

In these moments you should use and implement calculus in machine learning to study the tiny difference between each case and determine the principal and tiny reason that make students drop computer science.

This was a simple example to approach you, how calculus is implemented in machine learning

By the way, you could read this article: 9 famous reasons why students drop out of computer science?

In addition, machine learning uses linear algebra which means arrays, so to optimize these arrays or solve some equations you need calculus.

5 – Calculus used in signal processing

As a comptuer science student, you will study a branch or a subject called signal processing. So what is signal processing?

in a simple definition, signal processing is the ability to transform an analogic sound or light or whatever is of signal into a digital equation this operation is called DSP.

In other words, transform a wave signal into a 0 and 1 that the machine can understand.

calculus is used in this domain to trait signals and differentiates them, it is very famous to use in Fourier transformation.

  • calculus and algebra are used together in signal processing applications like:
  • add signals or remove them, for instance removing or adding background music to a video
  • eliminate noise
  • used in meteorology software
  • used in seismology softwares

6 – Used heavily in gaming development

if you think to become a gamer developer, calculus is very important.

Gaming development is a field that studies change or movements, so without calculus, you wouldn’t play Fortinie or Skyrim. There is no run from calculus in this case.

calculus is used in gaming development to:

  • determine the position of objects
  • determine the speed and acceleration of an object
  • predict trajectories
  • simulating natural and physics laws like attraction and so on

Players or gamers love to play games that are realistic and close to reality.

So you will need to implement all physics laws and calculus equations to get these things more realistic if you want to be a gaming programmer.

7 – Calculus is required in data science

For instance, using calculus allow a company to know in which months the ROI of sales gets higher or lower. So programmers can automate or make software that increased the budget spending depending on each time.

In addition, calculus helps businesses to discover what are the limits that a company should spend in advertising and still have dividends.

To explain that:

For instance, if they can spend $1 million in advertising and still get $4 of dividends or not. Because sometimes the market has limits.

In other words, sometimes you can spend $1 million in advertising and get $400, but when you decide to spend more than $2 you still get the same results $4.So the additional $1 is a loss and not effective.

This was a simple aspect when calculus can play an important role in data science. But there is another topic in data since called lossy data that require calculus too.

8 – Calculus is required in cryptology

cryptology domain is known for studying 4 principals math elements:

  • statistics
  • probability
  • combinatorics
  • discrete math

but if we look deeply we find that these all math subjects need calculus somewhere.

For instance, discrete math uses a lot of differential equations which is calculus, also statistics require a lot of calculus like derivatives and integrals. So everything is tied to each other.

if we take another example we find that differential equation are used in cryptography like ciphers.

So if you are interested to go in this area, math is something very interesting and heavy in this domain. you could read this article.

20 incredible CS jobs that have a ton of math(explained)

9 – history

According to Wikipedia, The world’s first computer science degree program began at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory in 1953. So comptuer science major is not the oldest major.

So Before that, most CS programs were attributed to mathematics or engineering department. So CS students were studying the same models that mathematicians or engineers study which in include a lot of calculus.

The other reason is after the end of the second world war America was in a race against the soviet union in terms called war or rocket race. Especially when a soviet union put the first satellite in the orbit called sputnik in 1957.

So America had a big necessity for engineers for this reason she attributed calculus as the main and essential element in the engineering field. you could read more details in this article.

13 interesting reasons why the US focuses on calculus

10 – Switch easly computer scince to engieering

computer science and engineering are so close and each day they get closer and share a lot of values.

That is to say all physics applications today are run by softwares, cars, planes and any machine you might expect is run by softwares. So we find a lot of computer science graduates working and taking physic occupations.

But the problem with the computer science field is in most programs are not accredited to switch to engineering.

For this reason, students who want to switch from CS to engineering need to pass an accreditation exam called ABET which finally requires calculus courses.

11 – Calculus is used in computer vision

calculus is very interesting for students who want to study comptuer vision it is used in widely vision applications like:

  • face tracking
  • objects tracking
  • computational imaging

So you will need a lot of calculus and algebra in this field. Computer vision is considered the heaviest math topic in this industry.

you could read this article Full math subjects for computer vision(17 steps)

12 – Is very important for developers who are making physics engines

if you think to work in a physic application or develop a physic engine software you need to be skilled in calculus. For instance, if you want to develop:

  • machines softwares for airplanes like autopilot
  • software to control engines like car engines
  • program all the embedded systems like computers, refrigerators, industrial machines, etc

So all engineering software programmers require to have deep knowledge of math including calculus.


Math is very important in comptuer science and engineering and calculus is an interesting element in math. So in most cases, we need calculus to explain other math subjects or problems.

So this is why calculus is very important in CS majors.


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.