Calculus Index Cards (Flash Cards)
(scroll down to see all the cards)

Here's one of the most common student questions: ‘What do I need to know?’
Answer: the ‘Index Card Method’

When I teach, every concept becomes an index card (4" x 6", blank both sides—it's easier to write math without lines). The cards guide class discussions. Students hand-copy the cards (adding additional information, as needed)—by course end, they have a stack that embodies every key idea. Cards can be mixed up so learning isn't order-dependent; ones that are well understood are taken out to focus on those that remain. Students hold the whole course in the palm of their hand.

I used this method for decades of teaching. Early on, the classroom blackboard became ‘one side of a card’: as I lectured, the card contents emerged on the board, and students took notes. Later on, students got photo-copies of cards, or they were posted on the web. Many-a-student has told me (years later) that they still have their stack of cards!

Below are snapshots of Calculus index cards. They're in my handwriting. You can purchase the entire set of jpg images for \$2.00. It's a zip file; you'll need to be able to unzip it on your computer.

The purchase of this file includes the rights for teachers to make as many copies (electronic or printed) as needed for their students.

There are 91 card images (jpg) in a zipped folder. The cards are numbered 1–89, with two ‘extended’ cards: 43abcd and 53abcd.

Click on any card below to see the full-size image.

Beneath the images is a numbered list of all the cards by title/concept.

You can see the cards used in the context of a college course here.
(This particular course was taught at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.)

These are a great resource, even if your teacher isn't using the ‘index card method’. Just be sure you write them up yourself. Yep, you could print, cut, tape onto cards—but you'd reap only about 10% of the potential benefit.

If \$2.00 is a hardship, then email me, and I'll send you the zipped folder containing the index cards.
I do not want to deny anyone these materials.

When you buy,
you'll receive an email
with a download link.

(So, check your email
after checking out!)

Different Calculus courses may present ideas in different orders. Ideas can be mentioned early on, and firmed up later.
Use this set of index cards as a sample of what can be done; tweak/re-order/adjust to your own needs.

I'm including links (in progress) to sections in my own online calculus course.
If you have trouble reading my handwriting (so sorry!) then click the ‘transcript’ button (in progress) above each image.


Index Card Titles/Concepts

In each entry, the first line is side (a), the second line is side (b).
Two cards (43 and 53) have additional sides (c) and (d).

  1. average rate of change;
    the tangent problem
  2. position functions;
    the derivative of a function
  3. intuitive derivative (notation);
  4. limit of a function;
    3 cases when $\,\lim_{x\rightarrow a} f(x) = \ell\,$
  5. one-sided limits;
    the squeeze (pinching) theorem
  6. continuity at a point;
    three ways a function can fail to be continuous at $\,c\,$
  7. key idea (for continuity at a point);
  8. an important type of continuity problem;
    relationship between differentiability and continuity
  9. limit rules;
    techniques for evaluating limits (examples)
  10. indeterminate forms;
    deciding if you have an ‘indeterminate form’
  11. the derivative of $\,f\,$ at $\,a\,$;
    using the definition of derivative
  12. an alternative approach (compare with 11b);
    another example: using the definition of derivative
  13. the linearization of $\,f\,$ at $\,a\,$;
    intuition for the linearization
  14. local max/min (extreme values);
    global max/min
  15. strictly increasing/decreasing functions;
    getting increasing/decreasing behavior from the derivative
  16. concavity;
    getting concavity info from the second derivative
  17. power rule for differentiation;
    examples: using the power rule
  18. partial proof of the power rule (both sides)
  19. derivative of a constant times a function;
    finding $\,\frac{d}{dx} (kx^n)\,$
  20. derivatives of sums and differences;
  21. differentiating composite functions: motivation;
    differentiating composite functions: the idea
  22. the chain rule (prime notation);
    the chain rule (Leibnitz notation)
  23. Why is it called the ‘chain rule’?
    Using the chain rule to differentiate $\,\bigl( f(x) \bigr)^n\,$
  24. pattern for generalizing all the basic differentiation formulas;
  25. the product rule for differentiation;
    proof of the product rule
  26. When is $\,\lim_{h\rightarrow 0} f(x+h) = f(x)\,$?
    When is this true? As $\,x\rightarrow c\,$, $\,f(x)\rightarrow f(c)\,$
  27. the quotient rule for differentiation;
    proof of the quotient rule
  28. the irrational number $\,\text{e}\,$;
    equivalent limit statements defining $\,\text{e}\,$
  29. evaluating a limit involving $\,\text{e}\,$;
    Why is $\,\lim_{n\rightarrow\infty} \left[ (1 + \frac 1n)^n \right]^{2k} = \text{e}^{2k}\,$?
  30. derivatives of logarithms;
    proof that $\,\frac d{dx} (\ln x) = \frac 1x\,$
  31. more notation for derivatives;
    notation: evaluating a derivative at a point
  32. differentiating $\,{\text{e}}^x\,$;
    differentiating $\,a^x\,$
  33. what is $\,\lim_{x\rightarrow 0} \frac{\sin x}{x}\,$?
  34. derivatives of sine and cosine;
    derivatives of tangent and cotangent
  35. derivatives of secant and cosecant
    a useful observation—derivatives of co-functions
  36. finding the derivative of an inverse function;
    two methods: finding the derivative of an inverse function
  37. What does $\,(f^{-1})'(x) = \frac{1}{f'\bigl(f^{-1}(x)\bigr)}\,$ really mean?
  38. derivatives of the inverse trigonometric functions;
    a typical derivation
  39. differentiating variable stuff to variable powers: the log trick;
  40. l'Hopital's rule;
    motivation, ‘$\,\frac 00\,$’ case
  41. basic use of l'Hopital's rule;
    more advanced use of l'Hopital's rule
  42. Where can a function change its sign?
    negating ‘and’ and ‘or’ sentences
  43. (a) info given by $\,f\,$, $\,f'\,$, $\,f''\,$;
    (b) a basic sign analysis of a function;
    (c) implications (and equivalent sentences);
    (d) the contrapositive of an implication
  44. Where can a function have a local max/min?
    If $\,f\,$ has a local max/min at $\,c\,$, then ...
  45. critical points, critical numbers;
    Careful!! A critical point does not have to be a max or min!!
  46. Where can a function have an inflection point?
    If $\,f\,$ has an inflection point at $\,c\,$, then $\,\bigl(f''(c) = 0\ \ \text{or}\ \ f''(c) \text{DNE}\,$.
  47. an algorithm for thorough function analysis;
    example—thorough function analysis
  48. Are critical points actually max or min? Two tests: 1st and 2nd derivative tests;
    the first derivative test
  49. open/closed intervals;
    bounded subsets of $\,\Bbb R\,$
  50. review of absolute/global max/min;
    the Extreme Value Theorem
  51. optimization problems (finding max/min);
  52. a first optimization problem;
    You try it!
  53. (a) an optimization problem;
    (b) ... continued;
    (c) a useful observation;
    (d) using the observation
  54. an optimization problem;
    ... continued
  55. explicit (‘showing’) versus implicit (‘hidden’);
    implicit differentiation
  56. related rate problems;
    falling ladder problem
  57. Is the car speeding?
    ... continued
  58. the Mean Value Theorem;
    the Mean Value Theorem (MVT) intuition
  59. a Mean Value Theorem example;
    a Mean Value Theorem example
  60. bounded functions;
    the definite integral of a function
  61. a definite integral may or may not exist;
    notation for the definite integral
  62. dummy variables in definite integrals;
    simple definite integral examples
  63. properties of the definite integral;
    linearity of the integral
  64. definite integral example;
    definite integral example
  65. How might we estimate areas beneath a curve?
    general notation for the area problem
  66. summation notation;
    left and right estimates using summation notation
  67. precise definition of a definite integral;
    Riemann sums
  68. estimating a definite integral;
    finding a definition integral using the definition (for a very simple function)
  69. the Fundamental Theorem, Part I;
  70. antiderivatives;
    ‘undoing’ differentiation; antidifferentiation
  71. Every differentiation formula gives an antidifferentiation formula!
    some antiderivatives you should know
  72. examples: using the Fundamental Theorem;
    more examples
  73. A very useful formula!!
    integrating a rate of change gives total change
  74. connection between area and antiderivatives;
    making it more precise...
  75. making it more precise, continued (both sides)
  76. summary: the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, Existence of an Antiderivative;
    the Evaluation Theorem
  77. examples: derivatives involving integrals;
    a more complicated derivative involving an integral
  78. indefinite integrals (general antiderivatives);
    more antiderivative formulas
  79. finding a particular antiderivative;
  80. generalizing the formula for the derivative of $\,\ln x\,$;
    the antiderivatives of $\,\frac 1x\,$
  81. substitution;
    format for substitution problems
  82. a substitution example;
    same problem, more compact
  83. substitution with definite integrals;
    2nd approach: merely indicate that limits are different
  84. integration by parts;
    basic strategy for using the parts formula
  85. format for integration by parts;
    using parts with a definite integral
  86. periodically differentiable functions;
    using parts with products of polynomials and periodically differentiable functions
  87. inverse functions with simpler derivatives;
    using parts for inverse functions
  88. using parts with products of periodically differentiable functions;
    ... but it doesn't always work
  89. analyzing falling objects;
    example: integrating to find velocity and position information
(just added on June 7!)