*Transparency Item: The Perspectives section of the Graphic is comprised of articles based on opinion. This is the opinion and perspective of the writer.*

When I was a junior in high school, I took AP Calculus. At the beginning of the year, I was very scared.

I have always been inclined toward liberal arts over STEM. Although I was able to get through math classes, I always felt like I was missing something.

Calculus’s reputation had convinced me that I would be more confused than ever. Although this was true in the beginning stages, once I began to understand calculus, I began to understand the math that had confused me for the past ten years.

As I worked my way through algebra, geometry and pre-calculus, I felt that I was memorizing patterns rather than understanding concepts.

It seemed like my brain was simply not programmed to do math. I felt helpless in my confusion.

However, calculus was a bridge to understanding math in the real world. For the first time, math made sense.

The difficulty of calculus pushed me out of my usual method of memorizing patterns to solve equations. Calculus’s infinite possibilities for problems required me to truly understand what I was learning.

During my experience with calculus, my brain was forced to think in different ways. I was no longer lost in math class.

Many of my peers questioned my motivation for taking calculus when I did not especially enjoy math. Besides the GPA boost and AP credit, I wanted to have a baseline knowledge of math for future career opportunities.

This was exactly what happened. Although I solely worked on the business team of my robotics club, I could discuss PID Coding because I knew what an integral was.

Calculus has surprised me in a number of ways. Although I originally intended to major in Political Science and never look at calculus again, I decided to change my major to Economics.

Since I have overcome my fear of calculus, I have the freedom to pursue this area of study.

Calculus also gave me a sense of confidence in myself for achieving something hard, similar to picking up a new hobby or setting fitness goals. Understanding calculus pushed me to do things I previously thought were impossible.

Calculus improved my critical thinking skills. While my brain was familiar with stringing together patterns in history class or stories in literature class, it was unfamiliar with piecing together multiple mathematical equations.

Calculus enhanced my creativity. Although math has rules and a correct answer, there can be multiple methods of solving the same problem.

For example, an integration problem can be solved in many different ways such as integration by parts, partial fraction decomposition and integration by substitution. Multiple methods can often be used to solve the same problem, but choosing the most efficient method stretched my creative problem-solving.

“In today’s society**, **we don’t treat math like it**‘**s art or music,” Joshua Bohn, first-year and Applied Mathematics major, said. “It [math] is all about ideas and your imagination.”

Since there wasn’t a clear pattern to solve every equation placed in front of me, I had to brainstorm methods and come up with creative solutions to problems.

The Mathematical Association of America claims that higher-level math is the stage in which “true mathematical creativity occurs and consists of non-algorithmic decision-making.”

The “algorithmic decision-making” is likely something similar to my experience in algebra. The Mathematical Association of America describes the two stages before mathematical creativity as a lack of awareness of theoretical thinking and “explicitly applying an algorithm repeatedly.”

Calculus also taught me resilience. The definitive nature of math meant that I failed a lot more than I was used to.

A structured classroom setting and the threat of a bad grade motivated me to persevere despite this failure.

Each time I failed, I enhanced my critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills because I was forced to come up with another idea.

Taking higher-level math such as calculus enhances understanding, career opportunities, self-confidence, creativity and resilience. While many people write off calculus as too hard, I believe that is the exact reason they should try it.

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Contact Caitlin Murray via email: caitlin.murray@pepperdine.edu or by Instagram: @caitlin_murray36