Understanding Multivariable Calculus: Problems, Solutions, and Tips

Gain a profound understanding of multivariable calculus with this excellent and clear guide that is useful for students, professionals, and lovers of mathematics.
Understanding Multivariable Calculus: Problems, Solutions, and Tips is rated 4.9 out of 5 by 49.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb presentation of a difficult subject. Professor Edwards is a first-class teacher. He explains this difficult and challenging subject in a lucid and straightforward way. This is excellent instructional material.
Date published: 2021-05-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Challenging with a few miracles required Perhaps you have seen the cartoon: Two math or physics professors are standing a chalkboard. Behind them, we can see that it is filled with calculations. In front of them, we see “And then a miracle occurs,” the final steps of calculations, and the conclusion. The professor in the forefront says, “I think you need to tighten up your reasoning a bit here.” Mathematically challenged folks like me may have few moments like that in Professor Edwards’s Understanding Multivariable Calculus. If I can identify each step in the process of solving a math problem, I tend to be successful in solving similar problems. In Professor Edwards’s Calculus I and Calculus II, I do not recall a “miracle” step. That was also true up to and after lecture 27 - which I watched three times listening/watching intently for the process to reverse the order of integration - of this course. Eventually, I found the process by searching YouTube. Earlier in the course I could have used more explanation of the difference between a line and a vector. I would like to publicly thank a math professor at my undergraduate alma mater for his brief explanation. I am grateful that this course pushed me to one of my mathematical boundaries. It was challenging in a constructive way. If you want to learn something from this class, you may want to buy a calculus text and solution manual to supplement the lectures and workbook. In order to see if two well-informed had the same basic information – and more importantly did not contradict each other – I used James Stewart’s Multivariable Calculus, 7th edition. Edwards and Stewart use almost exactly the same order of topics. (BTW, Stewart did not feel it necessary to describe how to reverse the order of integration either.) Before starting this course, you will probably want to have a full year of calculus as a foundation.
Date published: 2021-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unbeatable Bruce is an unbelievably clear and effective educator, and so deeply knowledgeable. I am extremely grateful to have stumbled across this lecture series.
Date published: 2021-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thanks Teacher...your explanations have been so useful..I'm remembering my calculus class easily with you..
Date published: 2020-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great course on multivariable calculus I love this course because it really teaches the subject. It is the same course you would take from a really good teacher in college or high school. I really like all the science courses offered by The Great Courses but most are made for a popular audience. This course give you the real subject Professor Edward is a terrific teacher. He is clear, concise and well organized. He is also engaging and full of humor. He gives theory and examples. After decades I had forgotten much of my math from college but after taking his 3 courses I am back on tract. and looking for more advanced classes. I strongly recommend this course and the two that calculus courses that come before it.
Date published: 2020-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent supplement to textbook learning I found this series very helpful to supplement preparation from a textbook for a set of Calculus III exams. The lectures are well presented and delivered in a nerd-friendly way. Professor Edwards is obviously an experienced teacher with expert knowledge yet is able to present the topics at an appropriate level for first-exposure students.
Date published: 2020-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understanding Multivariable Calculus Dr. Edwards does an outstanding job of presenting a very complex subject in a well prepared presentation with helpful discussion of what's going on.
Date published: 2020-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course Great presentation for a math course. Starts simple and then moves to the more complex. Takes some work and thought to answer the quizzes, but that in my opinion is the only way to get proficient at a course of study like this.
Date published: 2020-08-25
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Whether calculating the volume of odd-shaped objects, predicting the outcome of a large number of trials in statistics, or even predicting the weather, we depend in myriad ways on calculus in three dimensions. Once we grasp the fundamentals of multivariable calculus, we see how these concepts unfold into new laws, entire new fields of physics, and new ways of approaching once-impossible problems. Understanding Multivariable Calculus: Problems, Solutions, and Tips, taught by award-winning Professor Bruce H. Edwards of the University of Florida, is the next step for students and professionals to expand their knowledge for work or study in many quantitative fields, as well as an eye-opening intellectual exercise for teachers, retired professionals, and anyone else who wants to understand the amazing applications of 3-D calculus.


Bruce H. Edwards
Bruce H. Edwards

I love mathematics and tried to communicate this passion to others, regardless of their mathematical backgrounds.


University of Florida

Dr. Bruce H. Edwards is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Florida. Professor Edwards received his B.S. in Mathematics from Stanford University and his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Dartmouth College. After his years at Stanford, he taught mathematics at a university near Bogota, Colombia, as a Peace Corps volunteer. Professor Edwards has won many teaching awards at the University of Florida, including Teacher of the Year in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences Student Council Teacher of the Year, and the University of Florida Honors Program Teacher of the Year. He was selected by the Office of Alumni Affairs to be the Distinguished Alumni Professor for 1991-1993. Professor Edwards has taught a variety of mathematics courses at the University of Florida, from first-year calculus to graduate-level classes in algebra and numerical analysis. He has been a frequent speaker at research conferences and meetings of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. He has also coauthored a wide range of mathematics textbooks with Professor Ron Larson. Their textbooks have been honored with various awards from the Text and Academic Authors Association.

By This Professor

Understanding Multivariable Calculus: Problems, Solutions, and Tips


A Visual Introduction to 3-D Calculus

01: A Visual Introduction to 3-D Calculus

Review key concepts from basic calculus, then immediately jump into three dimensions with a brief overview of what you'll be learning. Apply distance and midpoint formulas to three-dimensional objects in your very first of many extrapolations from two-dimensional to multidimensional calculus, and observe some of the new curiosities unique to functions of more than one variable.

34 min
Functions of Several Variables

02: Functions of Several Variables

What makes a function "multivariable?" Begin with definitions, and then see how these new functions behave as you apply familiar concepts of minimum and maximum values. Use graphics and other tools to observe their interactions with the xy-plane, and discover how simple functions such as y=x are interpreted differently in three-dimensional space.

30 min
Limits, Continuity, and Partial Derivatives

03: Limits, Continuity, and Partial Derivatives

Apply fundamental definitions of calculus to multivariable functions, starting with their limits. See how these limits become complicated as you approach them, no longer just from the left or right, but from any direction and along any path. Use this to derive the definition of a versatile new tool: the partial derivative.

30 min
Partial Derivatives-One Variable at a Time

04: Partial Derivatives-One Variable at a Time

Deep in the realm of partial derivatives, you'll discover the new dimensions of second partial derivatives: differentiate either twice with respect to x or y, or with respect once each to x and y. Consider Laplace's equation to see what makes a function "harmonic."

30 min
Total Differentials and Chain Rules

05: Total Differentials and Chain Rules

Complete your introduction to partial derivatives as you combine the differential and chain rule from elementary calculus and learn how to generalize them to functions of more than one variable. See how the so-called total differential can be used to approximate ?z over small intervals without calculating the exact values.

31 min
Extrema of Functions of Two Variables

06: Extrema of Functions of Two Variables

The ability to find extreme values for optimization is one of the most powerful consequences of differentiation. Begin by defining the Extreme Value theorem for multivariable functions and use it to identify relative extrema using a "second partials test"-which you may recognize as a logical extension of the "second derivative test" used in Calculus I.

31 min
Applications to Optimization Problems

07: Applications to Optimization Problems

Continue the exploration of multivariable optimization by using the Extreme Value theorem on closed and bounded regions. Find absolute minimum and maximum values across bounded regions of a function, and apply these concepts to a real-world problem: attempting to minimize the cost of a water line's construction.

31 min
Linear Models and Least Squares Regression

08: Linear Models and Least Squares Regression

Apply techniques of optimization to curve-fitting as you explore an essential statistical tool yielded by multivariable calculus. Begin with the Least Squares Regression Line that yields the best fit to a set of points. Then, apply it to a real-life problem by using regression to approximate the annual change of a man's systolic blood pressure.

31 min
Vectors and the Dot Product in Space

09: Vectors and the Dot Product in Space

Begin your study of vectors in three-dimensional space as you extrapolate vector notation and formulas for magnitude from the familiar equations for two dimensions. Then, equip yourself with an essential new means of notation as you learn to derive the parametric equations of a line parallel to a direction vector.

30 min
The Cross Product of Two Vectors in Space

10: The Cross Product of Two Vectors in Space

Take the cross product of two vectors by finding the determinant of a 3x3 matrix, yielding a third vector perpendicular to both. Explore the properties of this new vector using intuitive geometric examples. Then, combine it with the dot product from Lecture 9 to define the triple scalar product, and use it to evaluate the volume of a parallelepiped.

29 min
Lines and Planes in Space

11: Lines and Planes in Space

Turn fully to lines and entire planes in three-dimensional space. Begin by defining a plane using the tools you've acquired so far, then learn about projections of one vector onto another. Find the angle between two planes, then use vector projections to find the distance between a point and a plane.

32 min
Curved Surfaces in Space

12: Curved Surfaces in Space

Beginning with the equation of a sphere, apply what you've learned to curved surfaces by generating cylinders, ellipsoids, and other so-called quadric surfaces. Discover the recognizable parabolas and other 2D shapes that lay hidden in new vector equations, and observe surfaces of revolution in three-dimensional space.

31 min
Vector-Valued Functions in Space

13: Vector-Valued Functions in Space

Consolidate your mastery of space by defining vector-valued functions and their derivatives, along with various formulas relating to arc length. Immediately apply these definitions to position, velocity, and acceleration vectors, and differentiate them using a surprisingly simple method that makes vectors one of the most formidable tools in multivariable calculus.

31 min
Kepler's Laws-The Calculus of Orbits

14: Kepler's Laws-The Calculus of Orbits

Blast off into orbit to examine Johannes Kepler's laws of planetary motion. Then apply vector-valued functions to Newton's second law of motion and his law of gravitation, and see how Newton was able to take laws Kepler had derived from observation and prove them using calculus.

30 min
Directional Derivatives and Gradients

15: Directional Derivatives and Gradients

Continue to build on your knowledge of multivariable differentiation with gradient vectors and use them to determine directional derivatives. Discover a unique property of the gradient vector and its relationships with level curves and surfaces that will make it indispensable in evaluating relationships between surfaces in upcoming lectures.

30 min
Tangent Planes and Normal Vectors to a Surface

16: Tangent Planes and Normal Vectors to a Surface

Utilize the gradient to find normal vectors to a surface, and see how these vectors interplay with standard functions to determine the tangent plane to a surface at a given point. Start with tangent planes to level surfaces, and see how your result compares with the error formula from the total differential.

29 min
Lagrange Multipliers-Constrained Optimization

17: Lagrange Multipliers-Constrained Optimization

It's the ultimate tool yielded by multivariable differentiation: the method of Lagrange multipliers. Use this intuitive theorem and some simple algebra to optimize functions subject not just to boundaries, but to constraints given by multivariable functions. Apply this tool to a real-world cost-optimization example of constructing a box.

31 min
Applications of Lagrange Multipliers

18: Applications of Lagrange Multipliers

How useful is the Lagrange multiplier method in elementary problems? Observe the beautiful simplicity of Lagrange multipliers firsthand as you reexamine an optimization problem from Lecture 7 using this new tool. Next, explore one of the many uses of constrained optimization in the world of physics by deriving Snell's Law of Refraction.

30 min
Iterated integrals and Area in the Plane

19: Iterated integrals and Area in the Plane

With your toolset of multivariable differentiation finally complete, it's time to explore the other side of calculus in three dimensions: integration. Start off with iterated integrals, an intuitive and simple approach that merely adds an extra step and a slight twist to one-dimensional integration.

30 min
Double Integrals and Volume

20: Double Integrals and Volume

In taking the next step in learning to integrate multivariable functions, you'll find that the double integral has many of the same properties as its one-dimensional counterpart. Evaluate these integrals over a region R bounded by variable constraints, and extrapolate the single variable formula for the average value of a function to multiple variables.

30 min
Double Integrals in Polar Coordinates

21: Double Integrals in Polar Coordinates

Explore integration from a whole new perspective, first by transforming Cartesian functions f(x.y) into polar coordinates defined by r and ?. After getting familiar with surfaces defined by this new coordinate system, see how these coordinates can be used to derive simple and elegant solutions from integrals whose solutions in Cartesian coordinates may be arduous to derive.

31 min
Centers of Mass for Variable Density

22: Centers of Mass for Variable Density

With these new methods of evaluating integrals over a region, we can apply these concepts to the realm of physics. Continuing from the previous lecture, learn the formulas for mass and moments of mass for a planar lamina of variable density, and find the center of mass for these regions.

30 min
Surface Area of a Solid

23: Surface Area of a Solid

Bring another fundamental idea of calculus into three dimensions by expanding arc lengths into surface areas. Begin by reviewing arc length and surfaces of revolution, and then conclude with the formulas for surface area and the differential of surface area over a region.

31 min
Triple Integrals and Applications

24: Triple Integrals and Applications

Apply your skills in evaluating double integrals to take the next step: triple integrals, which can be used to find the volume of a solid in space. Next, extrapolate the density of planar lamina to volumes defined by triple integrals, evaluating density in its more familiar form of mass per unit of volume.

29 min
Triple Integrals in Cylindrical Coordinates

25: Triple Integrals in Cylindrical Coordinates

Just as you applied polar coordinates to double integrals, you can now explore their immediate extension into volumes with cylindrical coordinates-moving from a surface defined by (r,?) to a cylindrical volume with an extra parameter defined by (r,?,z). Use these conversions to simplify problems.

31 min
Triple Integrals in Spherical Coordinates

26: Triple Integrals in Spherical Coordinates

Similar to the shift from rectangular coordinates to cylindrical coordinates, you will now see how spherical coordinates often yield more useful information in a more concise format than other coordinate systems-and are essential in evaluating triple integrals over a spherical surface.

30 min
Vector Fields-Velocity, Gravity, Electricity

27: Vector Fields-Velocity, Gravity, Electricity

In your introduction to vector fields, you will learn how these creations are essential in describing gravitational and electric fields. Learn the definition of a conservative vector field using the now-familiar gradient vector, and calculate the potential of a conservative vector field on a plane.

30 min
Curl, Divergence, Line Integrals

28: Curl, Divergence, Line Integrals

Use the gradient vector to find the curl and divergence of a field-curious properties that describe the rotation and movement of a particle in these fields. Then explore a new, exotic type of integral, the line integral, used to evaluate a density function over a curved path.

31 min
More Line Integrals and Work by a Force Field

29: More Line Integrals and Work by a Force Field

One of the most important applications of the line integral is its ability to calculate work done on an object as it moves along a path in a force field. Learn how vector fields make the orientation of a path significant.

31 min
Fundamental Theorem of Line Integrals

30: Fundamental Theorem of Line Integrals

Generalize the fundamental theorem of calculus as you explore the key properties of curves in space as they weave through vector fields in three dimensions. Then find out what makes a curve smooth, piecewise-smooth, simple, and closed. Next, manipulate curves to reveal new, simpler methods of evaluating some line integrals.

31 min
Green's Theorem-Boundaries and Regions

31: Green's Theorem-Boundaries and Regions

Using one of the most important theorems in multivariable calculus, observe how a line integral can be equivalent to an often more-workable area integral. From this, you will then see why the line integral around a closed curve is equal to zero in a conservative vector field.

31 min
Applications of Green's Theorem

32: Applications of Green's Theorem

With the full power of Green's theorem at your disposal, transform difficult line integrals quickly and efficiently into more approachable double integrals. Then, learn an alternative form of Green's theorem that generalizes to some important upcoming theorems.

30 min
Parametric Surfaces in Space

33: Parametric Surfaces in Space

Extend your understanding of surfaces by defining them in terms of parametric equations. Learn to graph parametric surfaces and to calculate surface area.

32 min
Surface Integrals and Flux Integrals

34: Surface Integrals and Flux Integrals

Discover a key new integral, the surface integral, and a special case known as the flux integral. Evaluate the surface integral as a double integral and continue your study of fluid mechanics by utilizing this integral to evaluate flux in a vector field.

31 min
Divergence Theorem-Boundaries and Solids

35: Divergence Theorem-Boundaries and Solids

Another hallmark of multivariable calculus, the Divergence theorem, combines flux and triple integrals, just as Green's theorem combines line and double integrals. Discover the divergence of a fluid, and call upon the gradient vector to define how a surface integral over a boundary can give the volume of a solid.

29 min
Stokes's Theorem and Maxwell's Equations

36: Stokes's Theorem and Maxwell's Equations

Complete your journey by developing Stokes's theorem, the third capstone relationship between the new integrals of multivariable calculus, seeing how a line integral equates to a surface integral. Conclude with connections to Maxwell's famous equations for electric and magnetic fields-a set of equations that gave birth to the entire field of classical electrodynamics.

34 min