1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Courant's Introduction to Calculus place on roadmap

  1. Jul 19, 2014 #1
    Recently, knowing that I don't understand a lot of geometry and trigonometry stuff finally pissed me off, so I started re-learning math from scratch. Surprisingly, I found myself interested in discovering how all those things work and what they actually mean. Now I got a reading plan, but still have some questions about calculus. I studied it in high school and had a course in university, but was only good at calculating derivatives.

    From what I've read here, it seems like starting with these books:
    • "Calculus: The Elements" by Comenetz
    • "Calculus and Analytic Geometry (9th Edition)" by Thomas, Finney
    and continuing with:
    • "Calculus" by Spivak
    would be a good choice.

    But I'm having a hard time working out Courant's "Introduction to Calculus" place here. Should it be in the beginner's part of list or right after it? Is it worthwhile reading just 1st vol. (or a whole series) considering I'm definitely going to read those three books I mentioned above?

    Also, do you think Comenetz and Thomas will provide enough background for such linear algebra books as:
    • "Linear algebra" by Friedberg, Insel, Spence
    • "Linear algebra" by Serge Lang
    • "Linear algebra" by Hoffman, Kunze
    or should I wait until I master Spivak?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 19, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 19, 2014 #2


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Will you be getting that Thomas & Finney book? If so, you need no other book to learn calculus. It'll certainly cover everything you need to know for those books you list. That said, you could get an even more thorough book, this one:


    This would include linear algebra and some differential equation content as well. So either of these would be sufficient.

    Calculus by Spivak you should choose if you know calculus pretty well and want to see it developed in the pure math style, or if you want to be challenged. So that should come after one of the two books I mentioned.

    Courant's usual calculus book, which you can find here (volume 2 is also available), is similar in style to Spivak, you can look at that as well. Possibly, Spivak is slightly easier if you ignore the harder questions in it.

    I think, however, that you are asking about the book "Introduction to Calculus and Analysis (vol 1)" by Courant and Fritz John. From the little I can see of it, it seems to be written for younger readers, it is more wordy in the beginning. That said, Fritz John writes a PDE book that is rather terse, and of course Courant is a highly terse writer as well, so although the book starts out being wordy, I have no doubt that it'll become terse later. So without knowing much about it, I would have to place it at the level of Spivak in your schema.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Jul 19, 2014 #3
    If you've read those three books, then Courant is unnecessary.

    No, you don't need Spivak for those three books. You don't really need any calculus to read those books. If you're comfortable with solving linear systems and multiplication of matrices, then you can read those books immediately. Some exercises will make use of calculus, but those will not be essential, so you can skip those.
  5. Jul 19, 2014 #4


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    It would be so nice to be able to learn like the characters in the movie The Matrix, they just download knowledge into their brains somehow. Then one could read many, many books for each subject. But as it is, one or two should be enough.

    Choose a book that has a style that you like, and possibly choose a supplementary book that uses a different, complementary format. Perhaps it is more rigorous, perhaps it goes further. But more than two is overkill, I think.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted