Calculus in Space

Space Probe 5.jpg from

If you are a math teacher, you’ve probably heard the question, “When am I ever going to use this?” from your students, especially when you are challenging them to learn more complex mathematical topics such as Calculus.  Today’s blog post gives a lovely answer to that common inquiry.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve taken quite a few MOOCs, mostly from Coursera. Today, though, I’m going to talk about a course from Future Learn called Real World Calculus, offered from the University of Leicester.  

Below is a video interview from week 2.  Here is how the video is introduced in the course:

Mark introduces us to planetary motion by explaining how calculus is used in space travel, and to work out the orbits of planets, looking at the forces of planets on one another.

Dr Mark Wilkinson, Lecturer in Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Leicester, whose work includes using information gathered from the Milky Way and other nearby galaxies to explore the properties of dark matter.

This is an excellent video to show your students when they are beginning to learn differentiation and integration.

In the references section, I’ve included additional resources on this topic.  Feel free to email me if you have others you think I should add.

As always, I'd love to hear from you.  Especially, I would love to hear if you have additional real life examples of Calculus that you’ve used with students.


Link for opening graphic

Link for Future Learn Real World Calculus course

Link for University of Leicester

Space math @NASA

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Author:  Dr. Diana S. Perdue

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