Calculus is a pretty big branch on the ol’ mathematics tree. From a big picture standpoint, Omnimax style, calculus is the study of ginormous numbers and super tiny numbers. We’re talking infinite and infinitesimal, here. It’s mind-blowing stuff, from a philosophical point of view. Calculus is a way to describe what happens in an instant in time, or what happens if we looked into the infinite future. It doesn’t always have to do with "time," but you get the point.
It’s abstract, it’s intangible, and it’s useful for those very reasons. It’s good for figuring out physics things like acceleration and velocity. It helps the weather man draw out temperature gradients on a map. It’s used for finding the biggest box that can be constructed out of a given amount of cardboard. We want the walls to be tall enough so the puppy can’t jump out, right?
From a textbook standpoint, calculus combines all of the stuff we learned in algebra and trig, and throws a bunch of new rules in the mix. There will be many parabolas, there will be new symbols, and there will be pie…no, we mean pi. Not that Pi.