Calculus Projects

Classroom projects to help bring Calculus to life... or life to Calculus.

AP Calculus does not lend itself to projects because of the time factor - there is just not enough time to have many projects as part of the everyday classroom experience and still cover the required material. This is a shame as calculus is rich in project ideas. 
Over the years, I have developed some projects that allow students to use a little creativity and see some use for calculus outside the world of the classroom. Many are geared towards BC students because that course usually allows for more applications. Feel free to use any of these projects and amend them to fit your own needs.
Project Title (click to download)
Project Description
Back to School Night-AB
(file size: 149 KB)
If you are like me, you dislike Back to School night. Not because it's a pain coming in but because it is boring - just reciting how much homework you give, whether you round grades, and the like. I have found that parents really appreciate a change of pace. I teach a lesson - a lesson in approximating areas using Riemann sums. The parents see how I teach and actually learn what the kids are learning as well. Try it.
Baseball Project
(file size: 74 KB)
You need a baseball for everyone (the baseball coach has many old baseballs), rulers and string. Students estimate the error in finding the circumference, volume and surface area of the ball and show how using differentials gives a good estimate of the error.
(file size: 95 KB)
I taught both AB and BC and my AB lesson would be a repeat for students who have taken both courses. So again, I teach a lesson for parents, this time on logistic growth. It's quite fun to do.
(file size: 74KB)
You need to cut out Plexiglas in order to do this popular project. If you can get someone to do this for you, students love the project.
(file size: 116 KB)
A worksheet that takes geometric figures and asks students to find the centroid.
(file size: 112 KB)
Do you have a creek or stream near your school? This project takes students on a field trip and asks them to create a cross section of the creek bottom in order to estimate the volume of water that runs through the creek. Very popular with the students. The project is modified by Ellen Kamischke's A Watched Cup Never Cools - © Key Curriculum Press.
(file size: 83 KB)
A simple project that allows students to see how Riemann sums will approach the true area under the curve by taking a 16 minute drive.
(file size: 238 KB)
A nice assignment that tests students on their ability of creating differential equations from real world problems involving deer population. An answer key as well.
(file size: 345 KB)
Students take a wineglass and find its volume, surface area, and work to empty the glass.
(file size: 78 KB)
There are terrific applets on the Internet for learning and teaching calculus. This website has over 100 of them. Let students find them and actually teach a lesson from them. This project tells you how.
(file size: 685 KB)
At the start of the century, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was a very popular game show. My thought was to have students develop questions so we can play the game in class. This project tells you how to set up such an assignment.
(file size: 6,250 KB)
And if you don't want to assign the project yourself but simply play the game, just download this file. You get many questions in each monetary category but you have to figure out the answers too!
(file size: 436 KB)
This is a take-home test/assignment. It allows you to give a take-home without students copying from each others. 5 questions with 4 options for each. Plus answers!
(file size: 63 KB)
Give students a Tootsie Roll pop and find out how fast it shrinks in their mouth. A nice AB project.
(file size: 449 KB)
My favorite. I give this project to students who are going from AB to BC. They have to do it over the summer. It tests continuity and differentiability by having students create a 3-D roller coaster. A very creative project that makes students think.
(file size: 3 KB)
*** NOTE: This file is a TI Calculator program
One of my students. Corey Lange, created this TI 83+/84 slope field program and it is the best I have seen. Create slope fields as well as graph individual solutions. Plus, show Euler's method solutions. I put this on the web last year and teachers scarfed it up!
(file size: 199KB)
This assignment has students measure fluid force against an ornament. A good hour assignment using calculators that allows for multiple approaches. An answer is included.
(file size: 62 KB)
I call this mini project "Who Sucks the Most?" It was worth being called on the carpet just to watch an administrator try to come up with a suitable substitute for the word "sucks." This project tests students on the BC concept of work.
Also check out our Calculus Clue Game - a great way to prepare for the AP Exam or 
end of the year final exam.   Click here for details.